CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Girls For A Change is a non-profit organization helping prepare young Black girls for the world — and the world for young Black girls.
For over 20 years, the non-profit has held The Camp Diva Leadership Academy, a summer camp for rising sixth through ninth-grade girls. Camp Diva encourages campers to find their voice, embrace sisterhood and deepen scholarship opportunities outside the classroom.
“We know that our girls need certain work skills, but we can’t give them those skills when they’re 25. So they have to start now knowing what will happen down the road,” said the CEO of Girls For A Change, Angela Patton.
Patton has been a role model for young Black girls for nearly two decades, giving them resources she did not have growing up.
“Here at Girls For A Change, we are not only able to change the narrative but change the behavior because we do it through our actions,” Patton said.
This year’s Camp Diva theme was ‘owning it.’ Patton said they had leased a building in Chesterfield for over five years to provide the non-profit with a place to call home. This year, they purchased the building.
“We want to teach the girls ‘what does it mean to own something?'” Patton said. “To own their worth, joy, own their own business one day.”
Some of the campers have been attending for years. Patton said some campers even come back to volunteer as counselors when they’re old enough.
“I was a camper when I was younger, and now being older, I see how important and vital it is for these young black girls to experience things like that,” said current camp counselor Shanthi Bhagat.
The non-profit wants to keep learning moments light-hearted and fun, so the campers start daily with affirmations celebrating girl power. Then, the campers will partake in daily activities such as self-defense classes with Coach Rick or traveling to Winter Green.
The campers attend Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Patton said they would have 60 campers every summer before the pandemic. This year they only accepted 30 to follow COVID-19 guidelines, but Camp Diva had a waitlist of 52 girls. Girls For A Change is actively looking for a bigger space for up to 200 campers.
“When all of our girls have the same opportunity to succeed. When all of our girls are seen, heard, and celebrated, then we all win,” Patton said.