Meet the Volunteers: GRA 2017

Tomorrow is the first day of our summer program! Last week, we "met" the campers by reading their responses to some open-ended questions. Now, we've asked this summer's volunteers to answer the same questions we asked our campers on their applications: 3-5 favorite musical artists, why they want to volunteer, what they hope to learn as volunteers, what they are most excited to teach, and who their biggest female role models are.

1. Jenn W, 34, is the executive director of GRA. Her favorite artists include Salt N Pepa, Tom Waits, and Biggie Smalls, and youth empowerment is her passion; "it comes from remembering when I was a teen and not feeling heard or adequately having my feelings or thoughts respected." Aside from creating an environment that encourages self-expression at GRA, Jenn is most excited to teach the Body Image and Media Literacy workshop to help kids understand that "we are being sold unreachable expectations of ourselves." She hopes that the workshop will help kids "remember to love who and how they are at any moment, knowing that no one can sell them that love in a bottle," but she wants to learn what the campers have to offer, too; their perseverance reminds her to keep trying, and their kindness reminds her to be kind and to understand that the world is more than the anger and hate displayed in the media. (On the lighter side, she hopes to see what kids find "cool" these days after being shocked to find that some kids aren't interested in Beyonce.)

2. KyKy Renee Knight will be 25 next week and aspires to be like her mom, who she describes as fierce, fearless, giving, caring, sure, and strong, always carrying herself with compassion and grace and calling out "problematic and adverse positioning ... without apology." For now, KyKy is a member of the band Harlot Party and is excited to volunteer with GRA after an "irreplaceable experience" band coaching and giving guitar instruction at this year's Ladies Rock Camp. She knew then "that I wanted to work with the young campers, to watch them pull their talents to create something cool and unique" just as the adults did. She is amazed by kids' insightfulness and ability to tackle challenges, so she is excited to watch them create, problem-solve, and come together to write music. While of course she is thrilled to teach them guitar riffs and techniques, she especially looks forward to "[sharing] a little bit of my experience writing and performing as a black woman in a scene that's been historically white and male, because I think playing in bands can seem intimidating and unwelcome to a lot of non-cis, non-white, non-dudes and I want to encourage the campers to know that there is a space for them too in music, even if we have to fight for it." Her own favorite artists are Lauryn Hill, Regina Spektor, Chance the Rapper, Tera Melos, and Noname.

3. Leticia, a fan of Tragic Mulatto, the Cows, the Pretenders, the Glands, and Metallica, looks forward to learning time management and socialization as a volunteer among the "chaos and magic of our biggest camp in years." She is excited to partake in all of our workshop topics, from stage management to special techniques, from self-defense to self-esteem, from girls' representation in society to healthy relationships and issues related to school: "fortunately, I get to dip my beak into a little of everything!" Her role model is her mom because, to put it simply, "she kicked ass."

4. Emileigh, 30, wants to volunteer at camp because she finds our topics and themes worthwhile and especially looks forward to sharing with the kids how to use and better their voices. Her favorite artists include The Beatles, the Olivia Tremor Control, Simon and Garfunkel, Fleetwood Mac, and Velvet Underground, and her role model is a college professor who taught her to "investigate and think in ways I hadn't before."

5. Daelynn White is 15 and hopes to conquer shyness, "help young girls understand [that] it's okay to be yourself," and learn "how to handle responsibility" as well as contribute to the conversation about self-esteem as a junior volunteer this summer. They have a silly personality and look up to their mom, who encourages them to be confident and "a better person by helping others." Daelynn's favorite artists are Rihanna, Alessia Cara, Chance the Rapper, and Jcole.

6. Hannah, 24, says that volunteering with GRA is "a great way to connect with my community and work towards a mission I believe in." Though she is not a musician herself, music is a big part of her life that she is excited to share with our campers, and she hopes to learn "how to rock [and] how to approach things from new perspectives" while volunteering. Her role model is her grandma, her favorite artists are LCD Sound System, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and she is most excited to talk about how girls and women are viewed in the music industry.

7. Some of Stella Zine's favorite artists include The Need, Fifth Column, Heavens to Betsy, Cypher in the Snow, Tribe 8, and Athens' own Pylon. She is excited to teach guitar and to band coach this year at camp, something she has done before at Girls Rock Atlanta. A musician herself, she is energized by the creative process and finds that "creating safe space[s] and facilitating this collaborative process for young women is powerful to be present for and absolutely inspiring." Her own bands are mostly "feminist punk, gothy lo-fi blues and indie rock" -- such as her band of eight years, Pagan Holiday -- and she had a transformative experience at an Appalachian music camp as a teenager that is part of what inspires her to volunteer at Girls and Ladies Rock Camps today. The healing qualities of feminist music in a supportive environment inspired her to co-found a Riot Grrl Chapter in 1994 in Atlanta, where she felt empowered by the "experience of women and folks beyond the binary supporting each other." She currently studies feminist music therapy at Georgia College and teaches mental health expressive art at Live Forward.

8. Emily Rose is a 17-year-old vegetarian, journalism and political science student, and GRA intern. Her favorite artists include FIDLAR, Nirvana, Mac Demarco, Thayer Sarrano, and the Front Bottoms, and she is looking forward to coming back to camp to volunteer again after participating as a camper for a few years. She finds it "rewarding to share music and messages of confidence and female empowerment to kids in this age group... empowering them and offering music as an outlet can help equip them with the tools to overcome difficult situations and feelings that start to arise at this age." She is excited to learn from the campers, too, as "young kids are often better at building each other up and accepting each other's differences than adults." Aside from bass instruction and assisting with band coaching, she is most excited to contribute to conversations about self-esteem and body image/media literacy. She doesn't have a specific role model but, as an aspiring political journalist and/or human rights lawyer, she looks up to all unapologetic female politicians who fight for true equality.