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Madam President Camp returns to shape young girls into leaders

Madam President Camp takes to City Hall in Kansas City, Missouri
Posted at 5:58 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 18:58:47-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After being forced to take a hiatus because of COVID-19, a Kansas City camp for young girls is back this year, and back to work at creating the next generation of female leaders.

The Madam President Camp garnered even more interest since Kamala Harris was sworn in as the nation's first Madam Vice President.

“Oh my gosh can you imagine the world if women didn’t have that voice in them that says 'I’m not good enough?'" Julie Warm, Madam President Camp Director said.

It's a world the Madam President Camp is working to create by reaching girls ages 10-13 and equipping them with skills to enact change.

The goal is to teach them that they're valuable and to show that there's in a need in the community for woman leaders.

It's a five-day experience each June and Warm says the camp has changed lives.

Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff is one of those girls, who's aspired to become a lawyer since she was a young girl.

Sophia at Madam President Camp in 2004

“By being in that camp I kind of realized from a young age that OK this is something that I can do, and now I’m 21 and I’m in law school at USC in Los Angeles," Dominguez-Heithoff said.

She was among the inaugural group of girls at the first Madam President Camp in 2004.

To this day, the camp still includes a field trip to city council or county commission to learn how complex decisions are made.

“Did the women speak differently than the men yes or no? What did you notice about people, was there anybody that looked like you? How did they interact with their peers?" Warm said.

“And that was everything because you can’t be what you can’t see, and that’s even more pressing and prevalent when you are young," Dominguez-Heithoff said of the impact of those visits.

The camp offers a few tuition scholarships not based on need, but on diversity.

“What makes you different? What do you bring to camp that is unique from the other campers?" Warm said.

Eighth grader Maya Christiansen Wright, was one of the last girls to go through Madame President Camp before the pandemic.

“I’m mixed, so I felt like I brought a little bit of diversity and I’m a very personable person, I have a big personality," Wright said. “Some people would say the barriers in being female, or not seeing as many females in those powerful positions, as a drag down but I see it as a push because then that means there’s more stuff that I can break and more people's opinions that I can change."

Maya at Madam President Camp in 2019

Wright said with the amount of self-love and empowerment she now has, she gets to share what that looks like with other girls who maybe didn't make it to camp.

“There’s a bunch of girls in the city that like, they may not be on the TVs fixing climate change but there’s girls everywhere that have some type of an idea, and opinion, that they want to make a change in the world and that was really inspiring," She said.

Since it's inception, 140 Kansas City girls have graduated from the Madam President Camp, where at the end they are paired with a mentor.

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