Camp Rosie convened at the Pacific Edison Community Center where 25 girls sat on a gym floor facing Nelson Nio, who was there to teach self-defense.
The girls listened intently to Nio, who teaches self-defense to police units, the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office and celebrities like Kim Kardashian.
He taught the girls on Wednesday how to use their body as a weapon — with their voice as their greatest tool — and told them stories of friends who had been sexually assaulted. A girl who accompanied Nio to the lesson relayed how she was assaulted and how she fought off the attacker.
The girls took turns kicking Nio’s body off of them to his instruction as he pretended to be an attacker who had pinned the girls to the ground. The girls fought back in several instances, even when attacked from behind and silenced.
Named after Rosie the Riveter, Camp Rosie serves Glendale girls ages 12 to 19 in a three-week period that teaches the kinds of life lessons that don’t necessarily show up inside textbooks and relate to self-empowerment in all aspects of life.
The Commission on the Status of Women offers the camp, which is free to the girls and funded by grants and community support.
Christine Baboomian, who works with the city and the commission, refers to Camp Rosie as “a girl’s guide to growing up.”
This summer, the girls will tour Glendale Community College, learn about fitness and nutrition, financial literacy, meet women who have established their own business and learn about teen dating as they compare healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Commission Chairwoman Paula Devine said she is always in awe of the transition that takes place from the first day of camp, when girls walk in the door, to the last day, when she observes the girls as “a band of sisters.”
“It opens up so many avenues of interest to them,” she said. “Kids who could never speak in front of people before now know, ‘I can do this.’ I want parents to know about it and take advantage. It is free, yet so valuable.”
Fifteen-year-old Mineli Avakelian said she heard about the camp through the Glendale Youth Alliance.
“I’m really excited to be here. I don’t think I could have gotten this anywhere else,” she said.
The second session of Camp Rosie runs from July 25 through Aug. 11. To inquire about open seats, call (818) 548-4844.