Though they work in different fields, Susan Hough and Laguna Beach resident Jen Hutchinson share the same goal: to help young girls discover their hidden talents and use them to benefit society.
They want girls to challenge media representations of women while learning about their own value.
Hutchinson's niece introduced her to Hough two years ago and the two women hit it off.
"We both want to empower young women," said Hough, a Laguna Beach-based life coach and teacher who said she has done more counseling than anything. She has worked with teens in mental health facilities and adolescent treatment centers for more than 30 years.
Hutchinson has studied the effect on girls of the portrayal by media of women.
Hough and Hutchinson combined their interests and skills to form Living Your Gifts, an organization that helps girls ages 11 to 14 discover what they are good at and how to share those gifts with others.
Living Your Gifts will host its first summer camp beginning July 9 at Neighborhood Congregational Church, 340 St. Ann's Drive.
The girls will meet from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks, Hough said. Students will work on art projects, examine the influence of social media and share their thoughts on peer pressure and decision-making.
Organizers will help girls connect to an activity that will empower them, be it a dance class or volunteering for a nonprofit, said Hutchinson, who has mentored inner-city children and has a master's degree in social entrepreneurship from Pepperdine University.
The early teenage years are critical in helping girls build positive self-esteem, Hutchinson said.
"We want to get girls before there are self-esteem problems," Hutchinson said. "Girls are twice as likely as boys to attempt suicide, and the main reason is they think they are fat."
Researchers have found that women are portrayed in a sexual manner more often than men in magazines and movies and on television, according to the American Psychological Assn. website. Women pose in revealing clothing and make facial expressions that imply sexual readiness, the website said.
Hough and Hutchinson said they hope girls will challenge those trends.
The summer camp is a starting point. Future sessions will be held after school begins in September, though dates have not been set yet.
The camp costs $305, which includes a $25 materials fee, according to Hutchinson.
Five students had signed up as of June 20 and Hough, who has a bachelor's degree in social work from Longwood University in Farmville, Va., expects 12 to 15 girls to enroll.
Hough and Hutchinson are developing a website focused on how girls' gifts are recognized around the world and women who are living out their gifts. A third section asks girls to answer three questions by video: Who are you? What is your gift? How can you contribute your gift to the world or how are you already doing so?
Hough was inspired by the west African nation
Burkina Faso, where residents believe every child has a special gift that will be needed by the community, according to the Living Your Gifts website.
For more information on Living Your Gifts, visit the website http://www.livingyourgifts.com.