It takes a village to raise a child – or, in some cases, a successful young woman.
Camp Be Your Best aspires to do just that. The day camp, which is put on through the Cher's Sisters Only Club and its affiliated partners, teaches young girls a variety of skills to inspire them to succeed.
"It used to be more for under-privileged girls, but now it's just a camp for girls teaching them life skills," said Angela Odom, one of the camp's organizers. "So, (it focuses on) money management, being your best, personal hygiene, cyber bullying."
Odom was the camp coordinator for six years, but now, she claims to mostly work "behind the scenes."
Camp Be Your Best is an all-day event that takes place in various locations throughout the CSRA on Saturdays during the summer. The Aiken camp, which took place on July 13, was held at the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior and Youth Center.
The girls receive classes, listen to guest speakers, and complete activities throughout the day.
Odom said the biggest challenge the girls face today is bullying.
"Some of that is cyber bullying," Odom said. "A lot of it happens online ... We teach them body positivity, too, because with that (bullying), size does matter."
Given whose name is on the building, camp counselors thought it was only appropriate they invited Aiken City Councilwoman Lessie Price to be a guest speaker for the 50-plus girls that were attending the camp.
"When they mentioned that they'd have about 55 or more young girls, I reflected back on my upbringing and how caring adults reached out to me," Price said. "... As I look at my development over the years, I realize these kinds of activities helped to develop me."
When Price spoke to the girls, who were from 11 to 18 years old, she used her own "humble" beginnings to boost their own confidence.
Price told the girls what it was like growing up picking cotton in the rural South Carolina town of Blackville with nine brothers and sisters. Her parents were sharecroppers, and all 12 of her family members lived in a house with only three bedrooms.
Picking cotton was hard work. They would wear socks over their hands to protect their skin from injuries, and people would often stop on the dirt road running past the field and ask to take photos of them, as if the family's occupation was a tourist attraction.
However, those humble beginnings laid the foundations for Price's career at a Fortune 500 company, and her public service on City Council. She was the first woman ever elected to Aiken City Council, and currently holds the record as its longest-serving member.
Farming, she said, helped teach her math. It helped teach her customer service skills at farmers markets. It helped her build the confidence to initially run for City Council.
"Guess what happened when I did?" she asked the room of young women.
The girls guessed loudly that she won, but Price shook her head.
"No," she said. "I lost."
Price told the girls that failure is no measure of success, and an under-privileged start in life does not dictate how much you can achieve.
Odom said the camp counselors want the guest speakers to be role models, community leaders, and successful women from Aiken.
"Everybody needs a positive role model, of course, and this is just another figure in their life or in their community, because sometimes they can't talk to their parents," Odom said. "... We kind of give them that extra, 'Here we are.'"
"You see a lot of the girls come into this building, and they don't want to be here at 8 o'clock anyway," she continued. "But by (the time) 5 o'clock comes, you see a totally different young woman. So walk in, girl; walk out, that young woman that we're trying to reach."
Breakfast, lunch and dinner is donated to the camp from area restaurants. Door prizes for all the girls also are donated.
Cher Best, who created the camp, started off hosting a woman's book club. Through her club, she realized there was a need for women's empowerment in the CSRA. The camp was originally geared toward under-privileged girls, but so many started signing up that their participants come from many different backgrounds.
Camp Be Your Best is free for all participants. The camp counselors ask the girls to buy a T-shirt if they are able to do so.
For more information, visit sistersonlyclub.wixsite.com.