Mentoring a Girl in Construction (MAGIC) Camp is a free, one-week camp designed to introduce middle school and high school girls to exciting careers in construction. It takes place at multiple locations in Georgia, one of which is Gwinnett Technical College, as well as Wichita, KS. Each day has a separate emphasis that lets young women, 14 years and older, have hands-on experience in several areas of the construction field. The camp covers topics from safety classes, to carpentry, electrical, welding, heavy equipment and beyond. Tuesday is Carpentry Day.
Atlanta Design & Build’s Project Manager, Sydney Contant Nunes, has been volunteering at Gwinnett Technical College on MAGIC Camp Carpentry Day for several years. Every year she has impressed the MAGIC Camp instructors with her skills in leadership, so gradually she has been asked to take on more responsibility.
In years past, Sydney was the keynote speaker for Carpentry Day, and provided oversight without hands-on involvement in the carpentry lab. During the girls’ lunch break, she gave a presentation about carpentry and how a woman can make her place in an unconventional field. She would give a brief history of herself and her involvement/progression at Atlanta Design & Build. Sydney shared a slideshow of Before and After photos of projects for which she had been the project manager. She also displayed informational spreadsheets on how to begin a career in the industry from point A to point B, depending on whether the girls prefer learning by book at a technical college or are more hands-on driven and would like to start working in the field.
Last year, in addition to her presentation, Sydney was also one of the carpentry lab assistants providing a watchful eye during the hands-on building class.
This year Kathleen Torrence, the woman previously in charge of the carpentry lab, was retiring and asked Sydney if she would be interested in filling in for her as carpentry lab leader. Sydney energetically took on the larger role, which meant she was directing the girls as they actually performed physical carpentry skills. Four female Gwinnett Technical College carpentry students provided a lot of great help while she instructed 18 high school and late middle school girls in completing their carpentry projects.
The carpentry project this year involved building a simple keepsake jewelry box. Each girl was given the rough pieces of wood and a diagram. They were then walked through the process of measuring, cutting, routing, gluing, nailing, sanding and hand painting their boxes to take home. In previous years, the girls have built toolboxes. Some of the repeat young women who had a little bit more experience would sometimes join together to complete a bit more complicated project, like a nice wooden stand/box to hold a cooler at parties.
“I recognized a couple of the girls from years before,” remarked Sydney after MAGIC Camp this year. “It is impressive to see how much they already know, and how they now feel at ease using power tools. I enjoy seeing the excitement in their eyes and especially appreciate when they are involved and interested enough to ask questions and pick my brain.”