Seventeen-year-old Diana Valdez isafraid of heights, but as she stood ready to repel six stories down a huge concrete tower, she said even that wasn't as intimidating as her teenage years.
The hardest part about being a girl is just pleasing people, she said. I think a lot of girls try to please other girls or try to be better than them.
Even so, her jaw was clenched, her stomach in knots as she stepped out the window. It's going to be okay, said one girl nearby. You got this, said another.
For many young women, growing up can be a trial by fire. Insecurities, parental pressures and the ever-present mean girls syndrome can make many feel helpless.Butfor few days this summer,a group of teenagers is learning that they need not be victims. They can do the rescuing.
It's called Camp Blaze, wheregirlstrain like fire fighters, face their fears and learn to trust each other.There's no room for mean girls here. It s more about being a strong girl, both physically and emotionally. They rappel out windows,cut open cars using the jaws of life andevenextinguish a flaming tanker truck.
As they learn to value each other,they smash the stereotype that girls can t have each others' backs.
Here we work as a team. It's not an individual thing. We support each other, said Lily Rambo, 17.
They haul heavy dummies across hot pavement, all the while shoutingcheers of encouragement to each other.They're left sweaty and gasping for breath, a metaphorfor carrying each other when needed, often through the fires of life.
In the end,Diana Valdez conquered the fire tower and her fear of heights. It's awesome!!! She shouted as her feet landed firmly on the ground, her newfound girlfriends cheering from up above.
Camp Blaze is free to girls 16 to 19years oldand is completely supported by donations. Twenty-four applicants are selected every two years. The camps are held in Bellevue and at the State Fire Training Academy in North Bend. For more information visit www.campblaze.com.