Girls for Girls: New summer camp developed by local teen seeks to empower girls

SELF.I.E. camp's goal is to inspire strength and unity in pre-teens


What do I wish I could tell my ten-year-old self?

This question was the jumping off point for a new girls’ summer camp being offered for the first time next week at St. Margaret’s School.

Coined SELF.I.E. by its creator, standing for self-inspiration and empowerment, the camp will cover a variety of activities to equip healthy attitudes among its pre-teen campers before they enter the crazy world that is Middle School. Each day of the week-long camp will focus on a different skill set: self-acceptance, self-care, self-defense, self-expression, and selflessness.

[Video above: coverage by CHEK TV as part of their Vital People Series sponsored by the Victoria Foundation]
[Photo below: Camp creator Aysha Emmerson with a girl she met volunteering with Project SOMOS in Guatemala]

Fifteen girls from around Victoria will be exposed to everything from mindful yoga and safe social media, to mask-making exploring identity, and splatter painting combatting perfectionism. Girls will be challenged to dig deep and reflect, but also to have unabashed fun in an all-girl setting.

Unique to this camp is its 360-degree approach to leadership development. The camp was developed and will be facilitated entirely by high school students—by girls for girls—with mentorship from adult educators of course.

“What I love about this concept is that it’s not just the campers who are benefitting,” explains Mary Lue Emmerson, Foundation Years Principal at St. Margaret’s School. “We are developing young female leaders in an authentic and grassroots way.”

Recent research has shown that girls more so than boys tend to rely on and benefit from same-gender role models. “You can’t be what you can’t see,” as activist Marian Wright Edelman famously said, a notion currently trending as the "Hidden Figures Effect."

This is particularly powerful in this case, as Mary Lue points out, because the camp leaders are closer in age to their mentees, making them more relatable than older educators. And of course, the camp leaders are given the chance to flex their leadership muscles with a real-world, collaborative experience.

It is Mary Lue’s daughter Aysha Emmerson, entering Grade 12 this fall, who has developed the camp from initial concept, with mentorship from her mother and the support of the school. Aysha herself attends another local independent school, but has teamed up with four St. Margaret’s School students – Eve Taylor (SMS’s 2017 deputy head girl), Alix Corwin, Victoria Lee, and Anabelle Welke – to deliver the camp.

[Above: Four SMS students will help facilitate the girls' empowerment summer camp]

Aysha was inspired to create the camp based on her own experiences as a preteen and middle schooler.

“As I approach my last year of high school, I find myself reflecting on what I wish I had known when I was younger,” explains Aysha in a letter home to campers’ parents. “I have learned valuable lessons—about staying true to yourself and the importance of kindness towards yourself and others—that I feel obliged to pass on to younger girls about to embark on the same journey, with the hope they won’t have to undergo some of the same challenges I did.”

The message of kindness to oneself and others will culminate in the final day’s theme of selflessness, where campers will be out in the community engaged in volunteerism – a notion central to the school’s motto: Service with Love.

SELF.I.E. is just one of SMS’s inclusive summer camps for girls which run weekly all summer long. This year’s themes have ranged from the light-hearted Pizzeria Camp and Holiday Hoopla, to the perennially popular Musical Theatre and Ocean-Inspired Art, to CoderGirl provided in partnership with Science Venture and Girls Learning Code to connect with the school’s STEM approach. [More on girls’ STEM education at SMS]

By working with girls at a particularly vulnerable age, the SELF.I.E. camp for ages 10 to 12 hopes to instill greater self-awareness and an appreciation of what it means to support one another as girls.

Although this year’s summer camps are full, camps are open to the public and registration begins in May 2018 for the coming year.


Media Inquiries: To arrange interviews with our principal, Mary Lue, or the students, or to visit us (preferably Wednesday, August 2 - self-expression day), please contact:

Jennifer van Hardenberg, Commnications Coordinator | email | 250-479-7171

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