Camp NAWIC 2019 - Building Up

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It has been just over a month since the 12th annual Camp NAWIC San Diego, but many people are still finding themselves in amazement of the amount of positivity this event brought this year and has continued to bring to the community since its inception. This year’s committee co-chairs, Linda Young and Melinda Dicharry, worked tirelessly alongside the Camp NAWIC committee to increase camper participation and community involvement. The committee went to work marketing camp at different events, sending emails to local high schools, and with the help of former campers’ excitement to come back for another year of construction fun, applications flowed in for over 100 campers! For a second year in a row, we managed to double the number of campers! Taking the increased numbers into consideration, the committee knew all too well that it was going to take a great deal of work to prepare, organize, teach, and provide the whole Camp NAWIC experience to all the campers. It was going to take a village, so we built one.

Sponsorships began pouring in from local construction companies and individuals wanting to help however they could; and it wasn't just monetary donations that came through. We had an abundance of personal protective equipment, material, tools, even whole meals donated. Volunteers from all walks of life: tradespeople, retired folks, parents, teachers, industry professionals, and everything in between, donated their time to make sure that 100 girls knew that they could work in construction one day. We even hosted special guests like District Attorney, Summer Stephan and none other than Trades Advocate and DIY Networks, Kayleen McCabe. Kayleen stayed with us the whole week donating her time to rally the campers and encourage them that a future in the trades was promising.

With no time to waste, the doors of AGC San Diego Apprenticeship opened at 6AM on the morning of June 17, it was Camp NAWIC Week! The girls were greeted by eager volunteers and breakfast. After fueling up on bagels and fruit, the campers attended Safety orientation and were separated into their work teams for the week. The apprentices went on to pour and smooth concrete with the help of Largo Concrete. Concrete fun was followed by learning about solar energy with Solv, Inc. and even building their own solar lights our of everyday mint cans. The journeywomen on the other hand learned that they were going to embark on their biggest project yet; two she-sheds! Equipped with framing, drywall, windows, roofing, solar, a door, the whole nine yards! The campers had their hands full, but were excited for the week ahead of them.

Day two of camp had everyone off and running. The journeywomen worked with the help of trades volunteers from Raymond Group, the AGC Apprenticeship and Swinerton volunteers to begin stud framing the she sheds. The girls got the opportunity to learn how to work with tools used in the field like: air power nail guns, drills, scaffolding and safety harnesses. While the journeywomen were framing, the apprentices were tinkering away with Sheet Metal Union Local #206, learning about sheet metal and making their own sheet metal dinosaurs. After lunch the girls worked on tile setting with Howards Rugs. The campers got to make their own stepping-stones and make tile designs; which also included learning how to cut tile!

Midweek snuck up quick and before we knew it, it was electrical day for the apprentices. NECA, IBEW Local 569 Contractors, and the Electrical Training Institute came ready for a full day of sparky fun with the girls. Campers were instructed on wiring boards, conduit bending, and even made their own solar lamps. The journeywomen finished up framing their sheds and went straight in to drywall, taping, and finishing the walls. Wednesday was also the day that DA Stephens visited camp and talked to the girls about social safety and encouraged them to continue following their dreams, that they were capable of accomplishing great things.

Thursday and Friday went by so quickly it was hard to believe it was two full days! Apprentices spent their last days of camp learning about the wonders of plumbing with Countywide Mechanical. Thanks to Jesus Hernandez, of Twin Oaks High School, the girls got some carpentry training and power tool practice while they built jewelry racks. Then they strapped on harnesses and participated in fall protection and confined space training. And probably one of the best activities of the week, thanks to Hawthorne CAT and Rick Engineering, the campers went out to the AGC remote yard where they got the opportunity learn about surveying and even operate heavy equipment! Meanwhile the journeywomen and their volunteers were feeling that construction project pressure. Finishes had to go in, the roof and solar attachments needed to be put up, painting had to be completed. The journeywomen worked incredibly hard to get the two sheds done and come Friday afternoon, they had two completed she –sheds!

Campers, family, friends, mentors, and volunteers gathered for the annual Graduation Day Bar-b-que Friday afternoon, hosted by Hawthorne CAT. Together, we celebrated a week chalked full of accomplishments, transformations, community, education, and construction. As always, tears were shed with gratitude and pride; laughs and smiles filled the air, and another Camp NAWIC San Diego was complete. Campers were left with inspiring words from Melinda Dicharry, Kayleen McCabe, and NAWIC San Diego, President-Elect Kimberly Bell; together these fierce female leaders reminded the girls that each and every one of them is special. That they are all capable and that they are strong. Every camper left knowing that they can do anything and everything and that they have the support of a village of people who built them up and believe in them. As Camp NAWIC continues to grow, the values will always stay the same, Camp NAWIC exists to teach girls that they can be anything they want to be, even a construction worker.

Kristen Panebianco