Making the Grade: Summer camp introduces girls to construction field


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Making the Grade: Summer camp introduces girls to construction field

This summer’s MAGIC camp for high school girls is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 25 to 29 at Gwinnett Technical College, 5150 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville. Lunch and materials are provided at no cost, but students must have transportation to campus.

Information: 678-226-6324 or

Learning to build a bench, toolbox, lamp and animal sculptures got Towers High school senior Nyomi Sorton thinking about a career in engineering. The Decatur student acquired those hands-on skills through summer sessions at Mentoring a Girl in Construction camp, a week-long summer session that has been held at Gwinnett Technical College for the last six years.

“I first went two summers ago because it was something different I had never thought of trying,” said Sorton, who plans to attend again this July. “It’s made me feel that I could do engineering and has taught me how to be patient, pay close attention to detail, be precise and follow a plan.”

Those skills are key to the construction industry, and the camp’s goal is to help high school girls hone them while providing insights about careers they may not have considered before.

“Nobody tells girls they can have a career in construction, but it’s not your daddy who’s hammering anymore,” said Auburn, Ga., resident Renee Conner, a member of the National Association of Women in Construction and owner of the 20-year-old Precision Tapping Inc. “This is an untapped resource. We get to mentor these girls and show them another viable career. We also teach life lessons such as work ethics and self-confidence.”

Conner came up with the camp as a way to address two issues: a growing labor shortage and a lack of women in the field. “I’ve been in construction my entire life, and I never saw women on the job,” she said. “I thought this camp could be a way to close that gap.”

Connor now leads four MAGIC camps around the state, at Gwinnett Tech, Cass High in Bartow County and two locations near Macon and Augusta. She’s also shared the idea with other chapters of Women in Construction who have started similar camps around the country. Closer to home, the response has been positive each year.

“We have girls who have come to camp for three and four years and are now going into the field, so we’re starting to see positive results,” she said. “We’ve got one young lady in her second year of industrial engineering at Kennesaw State and two who just graduated from high school in May who are also going to Kennesaw. We’ve even had a few go into the welding field.”

Gail Edwards, dean of Gwinnett Tech’s Automotive, Construction and Trades division, said the free program is aimed at 14- to 19-year-old girls. During the week, they’re introduced to topics on safety, carpentry, electrical systems and welding. Last year, trainers from Georgia Tech led some of the sessions that include a hands-on project the girls can take home. The week ends with a keynote speaker – usually a woman working in the field – and a bus tour to a local job site.

“They also get a pink hard hat and a toolkit,” said Edwards. “And they leave with a lot of confidence. I get parents calling afterwards who say their daughter put up a ceiling fan.”

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