03/26/2013 05:56 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Camping With Teen Girls: Dreams and Nightmares

For the most part, everyday women have successfully defied age. Forty is the new 20; cougars are sexy. Diet, exercise, and plastic surgery have preserved women to look as good as their high school years or better.


Now it's time to step back from the mirror and pay more attention to our teen girls. Our teen girls are experiencing an age-swap too; they're barely 20 and are saddled with grown-up decisions and adult-sized repercussions.

I've come to this realization after spending a few days at camp with Dream B.I.G., (Believing in Girls), a two-year-old mentoring program for 6-12 grade girls from Marvell Elaine High School in the Arkansas Delta. Our group, the Six Brown Chicks, was invited to facilitate two empowerment workshops with the teens, and that expanded into additional sister-circle talks with the U of Ark college-aged mentors.

The camp retreat took place at the serene Mount Sequoyah conference center in Arkansas. (Many thanks to Gwen Kelly for making this connection.)


I watched in awe as Dream B.I.G. organizers Angela Oxford and Amanda Finch (University of Arkansas staffers) selflessly doted on the teen campers. The teens rewarded the staffers' attention, and confidence-building activities with warm, genuine smiles. Some smiles were hard to come by on the first day as the teens navigated their new surroundings and met new friends; however, other smiles were hard to come by even on the last day of camp, as grown-up issues awaited the teens back at home. Issues of poverty, peer pressure, neglect, and unfathomable abuse are the reality for many teen girls throughout the country.


My experience with the Dream B.I.G. campers revealed that there is much work to do and that women must step up to the plate and pay it forward.

Paying it forward begins with taking active steps to prevent the adult situations that many of our teen girls face alone.

While I am not suggesting that grown women stop living their risqué cougar fantasies with sexy 21-year-old boyfriends and Forever 21 club clothes, I am suggesting that grown women make time to nurture and mentor teen girls who are forced into adulthood too soon.


Some grown women are so busy chasing the fountain of youth that they often blame, dismiss or ignore teens altogether and this disconnection deters teens from reaching their fullest potential.

The end result is a generation of teens doing what they shouldn't do because they haven't been taught any better. Some of our teen girls have become moving targets for pop culture's hype machine and real-life sexual predators; if these teens are mothers this cycle of ignorance and abuse will continue.

Our teens need living examples of success and mentorship to learn the life lessons that will keep them safe and help them to succeed. Legitimate role models are in order.

Dream B.I.G. can't do it alone.

Photos: top, Dream B.I.G. college mentors; Dream B.I.G. campers; vision boards; Zondra and Angela Oxford. Exclusive photos for the Huffington Post.