July 15, 2004
Whether they have used them or heard them, adolescents girls know that mean words hurt. In fact, nationally, more and more middle school-age girls are using words as weapons. Termed Relational Aggression (RA), the behavior can result in depression, low self esteem, and even eating disorders among young girls, according to Cheryl Dellasega, C.R.N.P., Ph.D.

That's why the Penn State College of Medicine professor and the author of Surviving Ophelia and Girl Wars has joined forces with Harrisburg Area Community College and the Executive Commission on Drug and Alcohol to bring young girls together to learn positive ways to resolve conflict.

Camp Ophelia will take place Monday through Friday, August 2-6, from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. on HACC's Harrisburg Campus for the third year in a row. Approximately 25 girls in sixth through eighth grades from the Harrisburg area will participate in art-based activities that were designed to help them form better relationships with each other. High school girls in 11th and 12th grades will serve as junior counselors, mentoring and working with the girls during the week-long camp.

"It is a very diverse group that participates in the program," said Dellasega, who leads the sessions along with her co-director Pat Gadsen, owner of Life Esteem, Inc., in Harrisburg. "We like that because they learn to get along with girls they know and girls they don't know."

RA is a real issue in the Harrisburg community and across the country believes Gadsden.

"It is another form of bullying. Girls tend to get into more of a passive bullying route, more relational areas," she said, adding that when young girls have a better understanding of who they are they don't tend to get involved in these sorts of behaviors. "They don't feel the need to get involved in situations where they are putting down others or being unkind. [During Camp Ophelia] we work on a lot of activities that help young women find their own voice and be comfortable with who they are."

For several years, HACC has hosted Camp Ophelia in order to support the camp goals among girls in grades 6-8.

"The College is pleased to provide a base for the program as well as other in-kind resources because we feel this program is in keeping with HACC's mission by providing support to our community," said Jennifer Thompson, director of multicultural affairs for HACC.

Camp Ophelia will wrap up with a closing ceremony on Friday, August 6, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Wildwood Conference Center. Open to the public, Dr. Edna Baehre, HACC's president, will deliver the event's welcoming remarks.

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