HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER by STRONG Magazine

Summer, a time when you’re not bound by having to go to school, and you get more freedom to pursue the things you LOVE or feel PASSIONATELY about. For some, it’s all about getting through that stack of books on their bedside table; for others, it’s about spending time with their friends and families. We caught up with some STRONG Girls to find our how they spent their time over the summer.

Name: Sophie and Ray
Age: 14 and 15
Spent their summer: At Camp LiveGirl!

Ray has been coming to Camp LiveGirl for three years, and it’s Sophie’s second year.

Ray: 

“I first came in summer 2016 and I just fell in love with the camp. It’s so unlike any other camp because the main focus here is the girls. It’s about girls learning to be more confident, braver, and also empowering us to be future leaders of the world.”

The week long camp is based in New Canaan, CT, and welcomes girls of middle school age from all over Fairfield County. Older girls who have graduated the program, like Ray, come back as counselors to help empower and inspire the younger girls. Each morning the girls hear from an incredible role model and speaker, and take part in empowering and team-building activities. On the day STRONG visited, a group of girls was taking part in a collaborative poetry workshop and another group was coding.  In the afternoons the girls split into groups and take part either in performing arts or sports. 

Sophie:

“I do the sports program in the afternoon. Each afternoon you do two things— for example soccer and basketball. It’s really good fun. We’re in teams so it’s competitive, but also just really relaxed and fun.”

Ray: 

“We had Jessica Long, the Paralympic swimmer come in this week. She’s a bi-lateral amputee so she had lost both her legs. Her whole story was just amazing. She has won so many medals and just never let her disability get in the way of her dreams. Everyone here is just so inspiring.”

Other speakers at the camp included Sarah Edwards—the female drag racer we featured in issue 5 of STRONG, a Rockette, and New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Oliver. 

“Lauren’s session was all about “How to Fail Better.” She talked about how failure is actually another word for practice because in order to get better you have to fail. We did an activity with her where she would put up ways that people who are famous had failed and you would have to work out who they were.  The guy who created the Dyson vacuum had created 5000 prototypes before he came up with the Dyson. If he’d stopped at 4,999 we would never have had the Dyson! Her session was all about having the passion to keep going and about having the willpower to just do it and not let people tell you no.”

The girls love LiveGirl so much because they can take the lessons they’ve learned there and put them into practice as they start the new school year.

Ray: 

“In everyday life it really teaches you to be positive about the way you view things. All the speakers talk about how positivity has had a big effect on their career. In September at school every year after LiveGirl I think: “This is going to be such a great year—it’s going to be so much fun— and I’m going to do really well!” Even if you get get a bad grade all you gotta do is see what you did wrong, fix it, and get right back up. There’s nothing else you can do.”

Sophie:

“It makes you think I’m going to do better in the next one. The next one I can do it!”


Name: Samantha 
Age: 13 
Spent her summer: Dancing!

Samantha has been dancing since the age of two, and during the school year dances pretty much every day of the week.  She started planning her summer when there was still snow on the ground!

“It all began in January and February when my mom and I were looking online to find auditions for summer ballet intensives. I ended up auditioning for 9 different companies.”

During the auditions Samantha had to take part in a technique class, during which she was assessed by the judges, as well as a pointe class, and then she and the other participants were taught a ballet combination which they then had to perform in small groups or solo. Samantha’s tips for getting through the auditions?

“You have to not look at how the other girls are dancing. You don’t want to focus on how good they are, just focus on what you’re doing.”

It obviously worked! Samantha was accepted into a staggering 8 of the programs she auditioned for.  She had to narrow them down and ultimately selected the Bolshoi Ballet Academy Summer Intensive, Irina and Maxim International Summer Intensive in NYC, and The Nutmeg Academy of Dance. 

The Bolshoi Ballet company is one of the biggest ballet companies in the world, and every year students from all over the globe attempt to earn a place at their summer intensive. Samantha found herself studying and living alongside ballerinas from all over the United States as well as from as far afield as Australia, China, and Equador.

We asked Samantha about a typical day at the camp.

“Each day I would get up around 6:30am...breakfast was at 8:30 and after that we’d start the day with “outdoor fun”. That would be something like stretching, meditation, or yoga. There were also Russian language classes and some arts and crafts.  I would usually sew a new pair of pointe shoes during that time. After that there would be technique classes, two hours of barre and center, and then an hour and a half of pointe.”

The ballerinas were taught Russian because all their teachers taught in Russian and all their classes were translated.  By learning the Russian for body parts and also for “up” and “down”, they could start to understand more.

“At first I thought it would be really hard to understand the Russian and the translators, but after the second day it was actually so much easier than I’d imagined!”

Samantha learned a lot over the summer and had an incredible time doing it. 

“They improved my technique and gave me corrections I’ve never had from my teachers that pushed me in a different direction.”

Samantha is changing dance schools this fall and going to the New England Academy of Dance where she hopes to continue to improve and grow as a ballerina. Her tips for being successful in dance:

“You have to keep going no matter what happens. You have to have passion and you have to persevere. Keep the same joy that you always have inside of yourself when you’re dancing. If dance is what you love and what you want to do forever, then you just need to keep on working to fulfill your dreams.”

Name: Akira
Age: 14
Spent her summer: Playing soccer in Italy

This summer I went to Italy to play in the San Marino soccer tournament.  San Marino is a small republic within Italy. My team consisted of players from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and from some states as far away as Arkansas, and Vancouver, Canada. We were only able to have one practice together before we left the States.  We were able to have a few practices together before the first match, including one on the same day we landed, an hour after checking into our hotel.

The tournament itself was well run, with one of the highlights being the grand opening ceremony: we got to walk into the stadium decked out in our Red, White, and Blue flags and other American things, beside 100 other teams, from 18 countries all over the world! Games with the other countries were very competitive— there were some very aggressive players from their local clubs who have played together for years. We managed to hold our own overall and have fun even though the games were tough due to the high heat and humidity. Thee professional-style substitution rules also made it hard. Just like in professional games, once someone was subbed out of a game, they couldn’t go back in, which meant some people ended up playing through the whole game. The referees also acted like professional referees—they were oftentimes too biased toward their home teams. In many games, we felt the refs made unfair calls that benefitted the Italian teams, but we endured because this kind of treatment by refs occurs all over the world in professional soccer (and sports in general), even in America.

We had a nice double decker coach bus that would drive us to all of our practices, games, and new cities where we would stay for a couple of days. Some nights we would have dinner at the hotel as a team, and other nights we would go out and eat on our own. When we arrived in a city, we had a few hours of free time to shop, eat delicious local foods, or go on tours. One of the tour guides mentioned that there are more pigs than people in the region; so naturally we had pork products for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which was a change for most of us!  We were able to experience the beauty of cities like Lake Como, Florence, Venice, and Verona while eating delicious gelato everywhere (we had to stay cool!).  The castle town of San Marino has stunning views and was spectacular.

Some of the most memorable events were with the whole team. They included yoga on the beach in the resort town of Rimini (where we stayed the longest – 5 days), watching the World Cup semifinals (in Rimini) and finals (in Lake Como) with our whole team and our coach who is from England, a boat ride in Venice, the best gelato ever after touring the famous Duomo in Florence, a delicious outdoor ‘al fresco’ meal prepared from scratch by the owner of an olive grove and winery on her stunning property, seeing the Arena and the famous statue and balcony from Romeo and Juliette in Verona, the long bus rides made fun by my teammates, touring the San Siro Stadium, the home of the two Italian National soccer teams, and watching the younger boys’ team play a match together. 

My whole team, which consisted of current 7th and 8th graders, got along very well and many of us have been keeping in touch with one another, even though several of my teammates are from distant states. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

ABOUT STRONG MAGAZINE

This piece was originally published in STRONG, a new magazine aimed at tween and teenaged girls that seeks to break the mold. While many other publications for this age group focus on celebrities, STRONG focuses on real girls with diverse interests. While other publications focus on body image and fashion, STRONG focuses on keeping a healthy body and mind. STRONG also presents great role models - girls who have overcome adversity and thrived, and women who are breaking glass ceilings in areas previously dominated by men. Visit www.strongmagazineforgirls.com to learn more.