empowerment Girls Rock Camp

Issue Sneak Peak: Girl’s Rock Camp

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 Joshua Beck

In a society saturated with pop culture fixtures like the Kardashians and a myriad of starved-for-attention Hollywood starlets, today’s female youth can face quite the conundrum when looking for influence and inspiration. Girls Rock! Chicago is a local branch of an organization that is looking to help young girls see past these flimsy icons by empowering them through music.


Images courtesy Girls Rock! Camp


The Girls Rock organization was originally founded in 2001, by a student of Portland State University who wanted to run a summer day camp centered on music. The concept was popular with Portland female youth and within just a few years, the camp gained immense popularity and took off around the country with locations opening up in New York and eventually Chicago.

In 2005, Melissa Oglesby and a friend, who had been involved with an early New York-based camp, decided to get young Chicago-area girls rocking by bringing the camp to the area. The girls worked together to curate instruments and volunteers and found a temporary home at Roosevelt University. In its first year, Girls Rock Chicago had only 17 attendants. But by the end of just one week, Oglesby knew they had started something really special.

“We had very few girls to begin with,” Oglesby said. “But by day two, our phone was ringing off the hook and I just knew this was going to be special.”

That something special was just what Oglesby and her fellow organizers needed to help this innovative idea flourish. After the first year, support for the group that started with virtually nothing started pouring in. Girls Rock Chicago formed alliances with important women’s organizations all over the city such as the Chicago Women’s Health Center, Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Foundation for Women to help raise awareness and funding for the project. They were even able to call on organizers of the Pitchfork Music Festival and Guitar Center for support.

“Guitar Center was great because they were focused on building stronger relationships with women,” Oglesby recalls. “They formed an alliance with us and kindly donated money and gear, which was so awesome.”

Interspersed with music-based learning, the girls also foster their minds and bodies through activities like yoga, button making, silk screening and even a t-shirt surgery activity sponsored by local clothing brand, Threadless.

Images Courtesy of Girls Rock! Camp


After years of seeing ladies of all generations work through the camps, Melissa Oglesby is renewed each time she sees a camper rocking out to their own music. What started as a fun project has transformed the lives of many bright, young girls.

“We have a lot of kids come back every year, so you get to see some really special things happen,” she says. “I love it when I see repeat campers come back and show me that this is where they really fit in, this is where they’re comfortable.”

Please check out Girls Rock Camp at www.girlsrockchicago.org for opportunities to lend a hand. This is one organization that is destined to be heard.

Jen Pontrelli
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To read the full article, check out Halfstack's summer issue set to release June 17th! You can read online at www.issuu.com/halfstackmag.

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