Penny Stein is a freelance writer who recently taught a Creative Writing workshop at Camp Scott in Saugus. For six weeks in 2010, she helped these youth to create a newsletter that focused on the challenges they faced, through the values instilled at this detention facility for teenage girls. Everyone at Camp Scott received a copy of our superb newsletter. Click here to download a copy.
As with all Create Now workshops, we gave the girls a celebratory pizza party, and they each received gift bags with unique souvenirs and Certificates of Completion, which are helpful in their court cases.
The girls also mounted an exhibition of their enlarged newsletter for an intimate gathering of selected wards at the camp, with everyone reading the essays out loud. This improves their literacy skills. One participant poured her heart out about the impact that this workshop has had on her life in a moving testimonial. The girls loved their mentor so much that they begged Penny to return. She will continue teaching this workshop on a regular basis.
We greatly appreciate the support of Oprah’s Angel Network, which enabled Create Now to provide this writing program.
THE GIRLS OF CAMP SCOTT AND ME
By Penny Stein
My name is Penny Stein. I have recently matriculated in University of LaVerne’s Doctoral of Organizational Leadership program and have earned a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Management and Leadership.
Over the past six years or so, I’ve had a desire to reach out to the under-served in my community. I’ve learned so much in my academic journey and from watching my parents compassionately share what they had with those in need. I felt that it was my time to share the talents and skills that the Lord has given me. I felt it was my time to be socially responsible.
Some may still not understand why I dedicate my time and energy in service of others. It’s simple. As a Transformation Agent, my life goal is to transform the way the less fortunate view themselves personally and professionally, to empower them with the notion that:
- victimization is not a comfort zone
- strategic risk-taking results in long-term growth
- the architect of one’s future is oneself
- one person, one vision, one call to action, evokes change
- a network of people joined as one is more powerful than a people joined to self
- transforming the way one thinks, transforms the way one lives;
- one life, one soul, one mind enlightened… matters
In the spirit of my life mission, my feelings regarding my interaction with the girls of Camp Scott follow.
It was a sunny Saturday afternoon when I walked into a world beyond my expectations and experience. I was ill-prepared for the rawness and deep emotions; I was ill-prepared to see the lost eyes, and old souls that deceived their young ages, but showcased the lives they’ve led. They yearned for help, guidance, and love. I felt overwhelmed, inadequate, under-qualified, yet I had a driving pull to help these abandoned, abused and thrown-away girls. I know the outcome will be positive for them and for me, but it will not materialize without pain.
That was the first paragraph I wrote on Day One of my volunteer service with Camp Joseph Scott, a detention facility whose function is to house delinquent girls between the ages of 12 and 19, counsel them, and prepare them for a life after camp.
I had the privilege of teaching seven of these talented young girls life skills and of being the vehicle in which they could creatively express themselves relative to weekly themes discussed.
Each week I typed their writings on topics discussed the previous week; I presented the newsletter reflecting their work to them the following week. It was heartwarming to see huge smiles spread across their faces and hear the excitement in their voices as they exclaimed with pride, “Penny put my poem in here,” or “Oh, she used my words in that puzzle!”
I feel honored to have shared these girls’ life experiences and to play a role in their growth. Below is an insight into the seven special girls I built a relationship with over a six-week period.
Alejandra has a desire to become a nurse. She is currently researching colleges. With focus and a sense of self-preservation, Alejandra can succeed. I look forward to hearing of her academic success as she treks toward completing her goals.
Alisa is an extremely gifted writer; she has the potential of becoming a well-known poetess. I encourage Alisa to keep writing, continue with her education and to know that her dreams can come to fruition. I look forward to reading her published works in years to come.
Alonza is wiser than her age denotes; with her intense desire to learn and her innate wisdom, only she can stop herself from achieving her goals. I encourage Alonza to keep her future in mind as she makes decisions. I believe that Alonza can be a successful wife, parent, and psychologist if she remains focused on her long-term goals.
Cortny is a born leader; she is exceptionally bright. With dedication, focus, and self-discipline, she can become very successful in whatever endeavor she chooses to undertake. I encourage Cortny to mind her associations and to not look for temporary gain, but imagine her future in her decision-making process.
Gloria is a very talkative young girl; she carries within herself deep issues that she is currently working on overcoming. Gloria has the potential to fulfill her dreams. My only hope is that she remains open to feedback and to trust in her vision to become a hairstylist. I look forward to seeing a chain of salons in Gloria’s future.
Jasmine, gifted with a beautiful voice and an engaging smile, she has the natural ability to become a successful singer. With singing lessons, the ability to manage her emotions, and desire to craft herself for success, Jasmine can be the next R&B singer to watch.
Still waters run deep within Lucy; she doesn’t speak much but when she does, watch out… a flow of excellent and thoughtful advice comes forth. She is a gentle spirit with a feisty thirst for activism. I believe Lucy will earn a college degree and become a well-known name in the community service sector and in American history.
At times, the experience was indeed daunting and emotionally painful; however, as I predicted, the outcome was undeniably positive for me and for them.
I thank Create Now and the Los Angeles Probation Department for giving me the opportunity to play a special role in the lives of these girls, and I thank the girls for accepting me as I am. If you are interested in learning more about my workshop, please contact me through Create Now.
Here’s what the girls have to say:
“What I really liked about Penny’s program is that we got a chance to express our minds. I’m happy that we all got it printed out for the Camp to read.” – Lucy
“I love your program because while I was here, I always felt like I could be myself. You and your program always made me feel important and special because my writing was actually able to be in a newsletter and it was important to be apart of something.” – Alonza
“I liked that we got to express our feelings. Ms. Penny was really sweet and very concerned about our well-being. I liked that we really got to get to know a lot of the people in our program that we didn’t know. It made us become closer together then what we were before.” – Jasmine
“I’ve learned better writing skills. I like how Ms. Stein always encourages us to write how we feel and not to be ashamed by our writing pieces. I have enjoyed this program because I’ve been allowed to express myself, and my work has been appreciated. Thank you.” – Cortny
Camp Scott Director Cheryl Jackson said, “I watched the girls in our facility read the newsletter and congratulate the girls who wrote the poems and essays. Our youth continue to express their gratitude for the direction, guidance and support that Penny gave them in creating the first Camp Scott newsletter.”