published Friday, June 28th, 2013

Career girls: Youngsters dream big at Girls Inc. summer camp

Lovelei Pulliam, Savannah Washington, Victoria Hassell and Aubree Carter, from left, work together as a group Thursday as they participate in "Career Girl," a summer camp hosted by Girls Inc. at the Brainerd United Methodist Church.
Lovelei Pulliam, Savannah Washington, Victoria Hassell and Aubree Carter, from left, work together as a group Thursday as they participate in "Career Girl," a summer camp hosted by Girls Inc. at the Brainerd United Methodist Church.
Photo by John Rawlston.

Six-year-old Kennedi Jones wants to be a veterinarian. But unlike most girls in her age group, and even many adults, Jones already has a resume and cover letter to entice potential veterinary schools.

"It says, 'I will be the first one to help all the animals,'" she said, her feet dangling from the too-big chair in an auditorium at Brainerd United Methodist Church.

Jones, along with 60 other 6- to 11-year-olds, is attending "Career Girl," a Girls Inc. summer camp.

Girls Inc. is a nonprofit organization that focuses on empowering and educating girls to be "strong, smart and bold," as its motto says.

"The Career Girl [camp] was designed to let girls know they can set goals, achieve goals and make their dreams a reality," said Toccora Johnson, director of elementary age programs at Girls Inc. of Chattanooga.

And these girls have big dreams.

"One of my dreams is to be a marine biologist," said 7-year old Ja'niah Cooper, who added confidently that marine biologists work 45 to 55 hours a week.

Lariyah Fortson, 9, wants to be a math teacher, and Elizabeth Hassell, 9, wants to join the Army one day.

"The most important thing with Career Girl is to just spark their interest and to show them that they can be whatever they want just by setting goals," Johnson said.

The lesson certainly seems to have stuck. Eight-year old Mya White wants to be a scientist so she can perform experiments.

"My goal is to graduate from a science school," she said.

At camp, they learned the basics of getting a job, including how to fill out an application, conduct an interview and make a good first impression. The daily lessons, punctuated with fun activities like swimming and horseback riding, also included business dining etiquette, tips on writing resumes and cover letters and how to network.

Hassell said they also learned that "investments" means buying stock from companies.

"They're really looking at their futures and seeing what it takes to be successful," said Bea Lurie, president and CEO of Girls Inc. of Chattanooga.

Johnson said it's crucial to get girls thinking about their futures early on.

"We're building a foundation, starting with the young girls and giving them exposure to college and careers," she said. "How many 6-year-olds do you know that can write a resume and a cover letter?"

Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at lburkholder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

about Lindsay Burkholder...

Lindsay Burkholder is originally from Winston-Salem, N.C. She graduated from Covenant College in May 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. While at Covenant she spent time writing for and editing the news section of the school newspaper, The Bagpipe. Burkholder also attended the World Journalism Institute in New York City in 2011.

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