Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
Zonta International is hosting a Camp Girl Boss July 15 through 19 at Macon Middle School in Franklin.
In 2018, the inaugural Camp Girl Boss was held on campus at UNC Asheville and was taught by women leaders from across Western North Carolina. The Sequoyah Fund in Cherokee is now hosting Camp Girl Boss and licensing it out for Zonta International to conduct locally, according to Michelle Masta, president and local business owner. She became involved when her daughter, Kristina, now 15, attended the area’s first Camp Girl Boss and came away from that experience with positive reviews.
“It is a week-long camp geared toward 11- to 13-year-old girls on the fundamentals of being an entrepreneur and a leader,” said Masta. “It empowers the girls to think outside the box … how they can make [their communities] better with a set of skills. [At the camp] they will learn fundamentals of running a business; they will come up with their own business, and with the help of mentors in the local community they will present a one-minute pitch at the end of the camp to their families and friends.”
Masta is a board member and vice president of Zonta International, founded in New York in the 1900s. For the Southeast, participants in the group belong to Zonta District 11.
“Many members of the 20-year local chapter are in Macon County,” said Masta, explaining that Zonta International is a global organization of more than 29,000 members in nearly 1,200 Zonta clubs in 63 countries. Such famous people as Amelia Earhart have been involved. The goal of the organization is stated in its mission: Empowering women through service and advocacy.
Masta and others recognized the importance of hosting a Camp Girl Boss because of the correlation with the Zonta message.
“Coming from Atlanta, we realize there are more opportunities in larger cities,” she said. “Schools teach you how to get a job, but this teaches girls how to make money, be empowered, etc. This camp teaches girls at a young age how to think outside the box. How can I solve problems? How should I do this? How much will something cost? How much can I make? This reaches such a very impressive age range, and the camp can make a difference in their lives.”
She was especially impressed with last year’s camp because her daughter, who is visually impaired, was encouraged and supported. “Everyone was so gracious and uplifting. They made her feel worthy and empowered, no matter her disability.”
For the July event, Masta and others in the community will serve in various capacities: hosting, correlating, speaking, mentoring, and sponsoring.
Deanna Wagner, marketing coordinator at Entegra Bank, and a board member and secretary at Zonta International, implores local women to sign up to present at Camp Girl Boss. “Sessions are anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours long. Each session opens with a video explaining what that session is about. Participants only have to do one session, one day. It is not a full week-long commitment. These girls need a positive female role model in the community that they can look up to.”
“We are trying to keep it local so that we can get the women that are business owners and executives in this community to be involved. In the future these girls can recognize and relate to ‘local heroes’,” said Masta. “Especially in a community like this that is more rural … What they learn at this camp might encourage them to stay in the community, instead of moving away, and to be inspired to make it better.”
Wagner pointed out that for those who cannot present a session at Camp Girl Boss, there is a need for mentors as well.
“It takes a village. Anyone who wants to volunteer or speak and mentor, donate healthy foods, please let us know,” said Masta. “Last year there were 36 girls who participated and there were 50-60 volunteers.”
Camp Girl Boss cost is $250, but Zonta International is working to secure scholarships for participants.
“We want to make sure all the girls have a scholarship so they don’t have to pay the full $250,” said Masta. “Right now we have 10 scholarships donated by people and businesses in the community, like Entegra Bank, REACH, Shelia Myers of Keller Williams, and more.”
Girls who participate in the camp will be provided breakfast, lunch, and a snack. The camp runs from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“I want to do this every year,” said Masta. “This is worthwhile for the community. School teaches you how to get a job, but not how to make money and have your own business.”
Zonta International meets once a month, the second Tuesday, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Keller Williams Training Center on Highlands Road. Anyone is welcome to attend. For more information about Zonta International or Camp Girl Boss, contact Michelle Masta at 828-332-1728, or through the local Facebook presence.