On May 10, Girls Rock Santa Barbara held its Spring Seaside Soiree at the idyllic Padaro Lane beach house of Vice President Marla McNally Phillips and Lee Phillips. The friend-raiser introduced guests to this novel organization that provides after-school and summer camp programs. The event also raised funds for its programming, including a special appeal to cover the costs of Syrian refugees attending its summer camp.
About 125 guests mingled on the multilevel deck and sandy beach while enjoying performances by some of the girls in the program. Board President Kerri Murray explained how at Girls Rock, girls ages 6 to 16 collaborate to write an original song, learn an instrument, record the song in a studio, and perform. Murray related how the program is 100 percent about music, but 200 percent about self esteem and how the number one issue with girls this age is self-esteem. Through the programs, girls raise their voices, collaborate, and support each other.
One of the girls performing was Murray’s daughter, Sofia Schuster, 14, who was presented with the Teen Leadership Award. Schuster was recognized for the more than $2,500 she raised for scholarships for Girls Rock from Golden Gate, an album she wrote, and with the help of Martin Gore from Depeche Mode, recorded in his studio. Veruca Salt’s Nina Gordon and Louise Post also played a few numbers for the enthusiastic crowd. The Santa Barbara Bowl was presented with the Community Partnership Award for its support of Girls Rock and other community programs. Arts education grants from the Bowl’s foundation have served 250,000 youth.
There are more than 100 Girls Rock organizations in the world, each operating as a separate nonprofit, and the Santa Barbara one is the largest. Its Sleep Away Camp in Ojai offers girls ages 10 to 16 its flagship program, Rock Band, as well as programs in film/photography, journalism/creative writing, deejaying, and music production/engineering. Girls Rock offers scholarships to about 50 percent of campers, including a significant number of full scholarships.
The Summer Day Camp for girls ages 7 to 15 has a main music program and also offers programs in photography/filmmaking and journalism. About 25 percent of these students receive some form of scholarship. The After School Program runs for 10 weeks each year starting in February and offers a main music program as well as a film/photography program. Thanks to a generous donor, this program was offered free this year and Girls Rock expects to keep it this way. Last year, 341 girls participated in Sleep Away Camp, 120 in Day Camp, and 126 in the After-School Program. Since inception in 2012, Girls Rock has served more than 3,000 girls, many on scholarship, including nearly 1000 girls on full scholarship. It has set a goal of doubling the number served by 2020 and a fundraising goal of $250,000 to accomplish this.
According to founder and Executive Director Jen Baron,“we don’t teach girls to be perfect, we teach them to be brave.” She is driven to empower girls and wants to make the Girls Rock experience available to as many possible. Following her mantra of “no girl left behind,” she works with more than 20 nonprofits including CALM, Transition House, Police Activities League, CASA, and Foster Youth Services to identify girls who could benefit from the program but cannot afford to attend.
This summer, Girls Rock has committed to providing full scholarships for 20 Syrian refugees to attend its Sleep Away Camp. The request came from Heart4Refugees, an initiative under the nonprofit Syrian Community Network, which is helping 190 Syrian families, about 1000 people, resettle in southern California. According to Murray, the majority of the families Heart4Refugees is resettling are victims of torture. Murray and Baron related that when they heard about these resilient Syrian girls, they could not say no. Baron knew that Girls Rock could “offer the Syrian girls a chance to rejuvenate and empower themselves through the healing power of music.”
For more info about Girls Rock, go to girlsrocksb.org.
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By Gail Arnold