Weeklong camp introduces girls to construction

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Kayla Sheppard wanted to learn some skills to complete minor repairs around the house.

"Because whenever I have a house of my own, I won't have to call or pay a man (to fix things)," Sheppard, 18, said.

Sheppard is one of 10 girls participating this week in a day camp designed to teach them the basic skills of carpentry, electrical and welding and introduce them to careers in construction.

As well as teaching them new skills, MAGIC -- Mentoring a Girl in Construction -- Summer Camp also fosters self-confidence, several campers said.

"I wanted to come to camp so I could learn how to do household things on my own, be independent and have confidence in myself," said Adrian Cumberbatch, 19.

Renee Conner, the national executive director of MAGIC Summer Camps, said the session taking place this week at Gwinnett Technical College is one of 20 camps taking place nationwide this year.

"The girls are learning skills they'll take with them throughout their lifetime," Conner said. "The camp exposes them to an opportunity and world they wouldn't otherwise get."

Many participants have said their self-esteem improved after attending MAGIC Summer Camp, Conner said. The camp also serves as a construction work force development tool.

"We want to get as many girls out in that field as possible," said Conner, who has worked in construction for 30 years and owns a company called Precision Tapping.

Gail Edwards, the director of Gwinnett Tech's commercial construction management program, said there are many career opportunities for women in construction. For example, she said many companies like to hire women to operate heavy machinery.

Many women display patience and precision and are considered some of the best operators of the tools, Edwards said.

"We feel like it's very important to introduce girls to a nontraditional field," she said. "It opens up a vast number of ideas, from engineering to working in trades."

After attending MAGIC Summer Camp for four years, Dacula High School graduate Jessica Kirkland decided to pursue a career in engineering instead of nursing.

Kirkland is one of four camp counselors at this week's summer camp. She plans to attend the University of West Georgia this fall.

"The main characteristic (the camp helps develop) is just coming out of your shell," she said. "Your confidence level increases. ... You become more mature and independent."

The camp, which is free to participants, is sponsored by the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, Georgia Power Workforce Development, Unger Electric and Anatek Inc.