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No Boys Allowed: Why I Believe in All-Girls Camp

One of the surefire questions I receive when I tell people about Heart O’ the Hills is “How do you spend a whole month with only girls?” To be honest, it’s a pretty easy feat. Also, all-girls is one of my favorite aspects of The Heart.

Creating Community

It’s a common belief that girls cause more drama than boys. And although I would agree that hormones tend to make girls more emotional, the back-stabbing behavior so commonly showcased in media is not an accurate portrayal of girls’ social behavior.

Camp gives the positive environment girls need to build relationships with their own gender. This community is most important during teen years. Instead of seeing other girls as solely competition, middle-school age girls can create lasting friendships. While doing so, they build up each other and their selves.


At camp I learned lifting up someone else doesn’t mean tearing down myself (the Warm & Fuzzy story). I learned that teamwork is paramount (War Canoe). I learned how to lead with grace and empathy. That sportsmanship comes before anything.

I learned all of these lessons from the strong and powerful girls around me who build me up without hesitation.

Strong & Powerful

If you can’t tell, I think women are amazing. One of my favorite things about women is their duality. At camp I learned that I can still be strong while being beautiful. Being powerful and being “girly” are not mutually exclusive.

Inspiring Role Models

Not only do girls feel empowered watching fellow campers lead, but they also feel empowered watching women like Jane Ragsdale, Cristi Lee Ahern, Monique Richard… (the list of extraordinary role models is endless). It is truly encouraging to see an organization led by so many outstanding women.

One of my favorite things is hearing little girls who love camp say, “One day I’m gonna be Jane!” Seeing women in these leadership roles helps girls feel represented. It gives them ambition and confidence.

No Boys Allowed

Now all that’s not to say boys are a bad thing. Despite their stinky-ness, we do enjoy the Heart/Stewart dance and Meets against Stewart, but the great thing is watching young women lose the stress of trying to impress anyone at camp.

So often in life girls are praised for their looks and not their character. At The Heart girls are praised for their skills and virtues. My biggest role models at camp were the girls who could get everyone out in dodgeball or paddle their heart out in war canoe. I looked up to girls who were strong and unafraid to lead.

Camp without boys makes finding your footing as a young female leader that much easier. Hanger Hall, an all-girls school North Carolina, puts the benefits of an all-girls environment into words here. My favorite quote in the article is one from the Nation Coalition of Girls’ Schools.

“Simply put, girls’ schools teach girls that there is enormous potential and power in being a girl.  By subtracting boys an all-girls’ education adds opportunities.  At a girls’ school, a girl occupies every role: every part in the play and every position on every team. Not only does she have a wealth of avenues for self-exploration and development: she also has a wealth of peer role models.”

Nation Coalition of Girls’ Schools

I believe in all-girls camp. It builds girls’ confidence and helps them take on the world, while providing an encouraging community.

Co-Ed Champions

But, co-ed camps have their pros, too. Camp Champions is a fabulous camp situated on Lake LBJ and I spent 3 summers there in 2008, 2009, and 2010. I have so many fond memories from my time in Marble Falls and Champions and The Heart carry many similarities. They both focus on building character and the importance of integrity and diligence. But one major difference is the fact that Heart O’ the Hills is an all-girls camp, while Camp Champions is coed.

I loved Camp Champions because I could be there with my older brother. I got to embarrass him frequently at the weekly dance, and I have so many fond memories of eating frosted graham crackers and going tubing.

Jake and I at the Rock Star themed dance at Camp Champions

Jake, my brother, did things like swimming the lake mile, sailing, and anything filled with adventure. I, on the other hand, tried out for the dance team and avoided getting in the water.

Our differences came in part from age, but part of me didn’t want to participate in the sports or adventure because I didn’t think I could do it. I believed I was a dancer and I liked performing, and that’s all I could like.

Now I know that sort of thinking is silly. We don’t have to be any one thing, but I didn’t learn that lesson until I came to Heart O’ the Hills.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

At The Heart I soon became familiar with the river and unafraid to jump in. I joined war canoe. I tried every sport. An although I wasn’t the best at all of that, by any means, I felt encouraged to do it at HOH.

That encouragement wasn’t from words. It was from seeing every girl around me participate. They encouraged me with their actions, to jump in and be myself.

Read More

For more reasons why The Heart is amazing, check out Lara Richardson’s blog about how the lessons she learned at The Heart helped her in her career (she’s one of those many inspiring role-models I mentioned earlier). And my blog about Why it is Okay to Fail at Camp.

About the Author

Rachel Pannell

Rachel is a rare fourth generation Heart girl. Her great-grandmother was the nurse for our first summer as Heart O’ the Hills Camp, and her grandmother and great aunt were campers, as were her mother and aunt. This fall she will be at UTSA as a marketing major. Rachel is a Jo Jones girl.

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