RICHMOND, Va. — A summer camp program is hoping to fight violence in Richmond by offering young girls a safe space with opportunities for growth.
The R.E.A.L Girlz three-week summer camp is completely free thanks to funding from Richmond's Gun Violence Prevention Fund, as well as a partnership with NextUp RVA and the Boys and Girls Club.
"I'm in the schools every day, and what we're actually seeing is the fighting with the young girls that they're not able to handle conflict effectively," explained Tammie Mobley, founder and executive director of R.E.A.L Girlz. "So that's one of the things that we're going to be talking about in this camp is handling conflict effectively and communication skills."
Mobley watched her best friend die when she was a little girl, and that’s one of the reasons she started the program.
"She actually got into a fight, and she was stabbed one time in the heart," Mobley explained. "She died at the age of 15, so I always share that story with the girls that I work with here in the inner city. Because I want them to know that violence is not the way. Fighting is not the way we want to help them with conflict resolution. I don't want them to be the next story."
The summer camp is open to all Richmond high schoolers, but the goal is to reach young girls who may have been exposed to violence or difficulties at home.
During the three weeks from July 11 through July 29, Mobley and her team will focus on building healthy relationships.
"One in three teens is in an unhealthy relationship," said Mobley. "And that is because they don't know what a healthy relationship looks like."
Campers will also participate in role playing discussions, daily journals, physical activity and they'll get the chance to talk to a female Richmond Police officer and young college students who recently completed the program.
"I want them to be able to tell them what the college experience is like," said Mobley. "Because maybe some of these girls are not even thinking about college. But I want them to say, you know what, I can't do that. I can't achieve that."
19-year-old Virginia State University freshman Zenia Hazelwood was one of the first students in the R.E.A.L Girlz program three years ago. This summer, she’ll be one of the camp counselors.
"Before this program, I maybe didn't have as much confidence as I do now," Hazelwood noted. "I'm very much more confident in myself, and I'm able to speak out more. We want to help these young girls out and show them that there's another lifestyle and that you don't have to choose violence over peace."
The camp will be held July 11-29 at the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center in the Creighton neighborhood. To sign up, email Mobley at RealzGirlsSummer@gmail.com for an application.