This summer I had the absolute pleasure of attending Week 2 of Camp Latinitas and it was a blast. As is custom throughout the camps, Week 2 had a theme, and this time it was Design. The students were broken up into teams and then tasked with creating a group project that centered around the world of fashion and design in its various elements. This week, though, was a little different. As part of Latintias overarching goal to combine our lovely Programs and our amazing publication, Latinitas Magazine, I was asked to come in and assist with some of the activities. This meant I had a front seat to everything the Chicas did this past week, and I’m going to share all of it.
The week started off with the kids being dropped off at around 9 AM Monday morning. Camp Latinitas isn’t an overnight camp, so the students would be picked up again at 4 PM. As they sat down, our incredible Programs team made up of Programs Managers Beatriz Castillo and Estefanía Romero, Programs Coordinators Mia Gomez-Reyes and Aliyah Zavala, and our Program Leaders Alexandria Garza and Karen Mandujano began with a simple introduction into the camps and the rules they’d need to follow throughout the week.
Following that, was the first-ever “Circle Time” of the week. Meaning, all the students stood up and gathered in a circle with the Programs Team, and me, to start things off with an icebreaker. This is usually saved for the end of the day, but an exception was made to get everyone acquainted with each other before being broken into teams.
The icebreaker for today was simple: state your name and an adjective that describes you and starts with the same letter. For example, mine was Creative Camila. Some of the Programs Team went first, stating things like Amazing Aliyah or Krazy Karen, before giving the kids a turn. While some came up with pretty creative adjectives, using words like Lazy or Scary, some of the shyer campers opted out of the exercise. As the kids continued, I was surprised to hear another Camila introduce herself to the group, a seemingly outgoing middle-schooler who even spelled her name the same way.
Once the exercise was done, the kids were broken up into teams and instructed to sit with their groups. They were finally about to discover what this week’s big group project was all about, and I was the one to tell them. Standing in front of thirty or so kids, I began my little slideshow. Explaining that Latinitas actually started out as an online magazine written by Latinas for Latinas. As more writers came onto the scene, the magazine started getting sponsors and investing more of their time into physical programs such as conferences and this very camp. Though Latinitas looks a little different now, the core of its mission, to encourage and empower, has always remained. I explained what I do as the Editor of Latinitas Magazine, and how all of this is relevant because this week our Design Chicas will be designing their very own Digital Fashion Magazine Spread!
This was huge, and the kids were clearly excited. Some even started jotting down ideas in the middle of my presentation. I gave them an overview of the types of things a Magazine needs; a name, a mission, a cover, and an overall aesthetic. We went over some examples with Teen Vogue and Alternative Press, and before I knew it, it was time to leave the metaphorical stage and start helping them brainstorm.
Their first task was to create a Mood Board as a team to generate inspiration for how they wanted their magazine to look. Alexandria and I had been asked to create our own Mood Boards to give the kids an example to follow, and those remained on the big screen as the kids got to brainstorming. They could either create a physical Mood Board, by cutting up magazine clippings and pasting them together with the aesthetic they like, or create a Mood Board digitally using Canva, sourcing images from Google and Pinterest.
The more time I spent with each team, the more I was taken aback by just how on-point their fashion instincts were. When I was a child I would match zigzag neon leggings with a formal skirt and brightly colored T-shirt and call it a day.
My fashion sense has come a long ways since I was 12. But the first team I visited was so on trend it was shocking. Comprised of three girls that couldn’t be over the age of ten, Team Fantasy Core greeted me with an inquisitive, “Do you like Cottage Core?”
Cottage Core is an adorable aesthetic that matches the whimsy of the forest with the fashion of a milkmaid in the best of ways. It’s mushrooms, frogs, a picnic basket, and glamorous flowy dresses. Standing in front of them in my own flowy dress, I had to accept that yes, I did like Cottage Core. The rest of the teams included a group of tweens whose fashion sense was heavily inspired by street style called Young Brooklyn, a younger group who loved all things pink and alternative called Teen Y2K Goth, and perhaps my favorite group (if I’m allowed to have a favorite) Star Girl Nova. A group of younger tweens, who loved Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis and the season fall.
As soon as I walked up to Star Girl Nova, Camila, who was in the team, greeted me with a hug. Another girl in the group excitedly told me we shared the same last name, and the compliments were overflowing. The camaraderie around them was genuinely inspiring. They were so supportive of each other’s ideas, constantly hyping each other up and affirming their brilliance. It was at that moment that I wished I could have experienced this camp for myself as a kid. But at the very least, being able to teach alongside them was an absolute honor.
The fun continued as the teams gathered around for some friendly competition. A fashion scavenger hunt of sorts, as each team was gifted a list of items and, alongside an adult, was tasked with heading outside to see if they could find anyone wearing them. Things like a pair of Crocs, a red T-shirt, a backpack, a watch, etc. I was paired with Team Fantasy Core, and it was an absolute blast. While we didn’t win, we had a great time trying to find everything, ending the exercise with second place.
The day ended with a lesson on the history of thrifting, Circle Time, and an introduction to the concept of Mariposa of the Day. Mariposa, which means butterfly in Spanish, is the symbol for Latinitas. Throughout the day the girls can put their submissions for who they think should be Mariposa of the Day in a jar. Someone who stood out in all the activities, or really had a positive attitude throughout the day. Day 1 ended with Camila being crowned Mariposa of the Day, and I couldn’t have been happier!
There was no camp the next day due to it being July 4th, however, things got back on track that Wednesday, which was all about honing their fashion identities, both as individuals and as a team. Latinitas invited four Latina designers from the well-known clothing store, JCPenney, to come and speak to the girls about working in fashion. The designers, Pamela, Gabriella, Zahira, and Romy all specialize in different forms of design from men’s clothing to jeans to everywhere in between. They first warmed up the crowd by bringing in some clothing and allowing the girls to go “thrift shopping” with it. Each team got to pick out a full outfit, not only for themselves but also one main outfit that represented their team’s aesthetic.
Once the teams were seated they each got paired with a designer who helped them put together their outfits. The girls were allowed to modify the clothing, ripping it to shreds or adding lace wherever they deemed fit. Together the teams came up with 4 really cohesive looks. Following this, the girls were instructed to change into their individual outfits and have a team photo shoot with their decked-out mannequins. Safe to say, this part of the day was a massive hit with the kids, as they struck poses, hyped each other up, and fully bonded as a team.
With an aesthetic established, and a clear mission in sight I joined the girls to help them with the digital part of their digital magazine. Helping them source photos and more specifically, helping them write out their missions and individual fashion interests. We wanted to make sure each teammate got a page to express their own personal aesthetics, on top of a main page with a Letter From The Designers about their magazine’s style.
The day ended with Circle Time, which included the JCP designers, who stayed the entire day. Everyone gathered around and one by one expressed what their favorite part of the day was. It was a wholesome ending to a lovely day at camp, and before I knew it Day 3 was underway. For the first half, the teams got together and finished their Digital Magazine. Adding pages filled with quizzes, celebrity fashion inspirations, and some articles on the latest trends.
After a hearty lunch, the girls were introduced to Christabell Nunez, the current Mrs. Texas Plus America and Mrs. Austin Plus. She taught the girls all about empowerment, self-love, and most importantly, how to walk the runway. Together the teams took turns strutting their stuff on the purple runway in practice for the big showcase the following day.
Each week at Camp Latinitas ends with a showcase, where all the parents and family members come over and get to see what the kids worked on throughout the week, and a presentation of their latest group project. For Design Chica each team would get the chance to strut down the walkway and present their Digital Magazines, page by page.
Most of Friday is spent getting everything prepped, making sure the magazines are finished, rehearsing their presentations, and then Karaoke. Yes, you read that right! After everything’s done, and before the parents walk in, the girls line up to sing some gold old fashion Karaoke. Songs like “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift, or even the classic “What Dreams Are Made Of” from the Lizzie McGuire Movie. It was evident at this moment how much confidence these girls had gained in just a few days. Even the shy ones, who opted out of some of the talking portions, were laughing with their teams, feeling comfortable and confident.
As the parents started coming in, the teams sat down to wait for the presentation to begin. It is here Camila wanted me to mention her dad was unable to attend and missed her presentation. I told her I would include this as she wanted to really lay the guilt on thick, even insinuating he’d have to get her a matcha drink from the coffee shop across the street to make it up to her. Ironically, Star Girl Nova went first, shredding the runway and emphatically explaining their love of Kali Uchis and this type of fall-infused street style, “Our magazine name is Star Girl Nova. We chose this name because we’re girls, and we’re stars. Our vision for this magazine is to encourage girls to be themselves. Our style is fall clothing, and our target audience is Kali Uchis and teenage girls.”
After their presentation, where they walked the parents through their different aesthetics and stylistic choices, it was time for Teen Y2K Goth. The girls walked down the runway with confidence, channeling their inner Avril Lavine and Jenna Ortega, their magazine’s celebrity inspirations. As they introduced the concept behind Teen Y2K Goth, and their slogan “Inspiring all teens to embrace their style.” The girls explained more about their brand, “Our target audience is teens, because teens tend to follow trends, and Goth is trendy. You can follow us at Hot Topic, Fashion Nova, Shein, Target, and JCPenney.” The girls explained their love for the Goth aesthetic and their thoughts on upcoming trends. They even played a game with the audience, showing them photos of clothing and asking them to shout out which decade they’re from.
Once they finish it was time for the next team, Fantasy Core! The tiny girls walked out to The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” before jumping right into their vision for Fantasy Core, “We chose this name because we were inspired by fairies, Elvis, and Cottage Core.” Oh yes, it is here that I should mention one of the teammates is really into Elvis Presley and his aesthetic, even explaining that the necklace they chose for their Team Outfit was “Elvis-style because it’s shiny.” The entire thing was adorable, colorful, and wildly inventive, and all of the sudden it was time for the last team. Young Brooklyn sauntered onto the stage, invoking swagger and confidence as they walked to Ariana Grande’s “God Is A Woman”. The team wants to “take fashion to the streets” and show their consumers that “the hottest person is in the mirror” with their unique clothing line. Sharing celebrity inspirations like Doja Cat, Ice Spice, and Bad Bunny the team defined their aesthetic pretty quickly.
As the team wrapped things up, so ended my first week at Camp Latinitas. It was such a privilege to aid these girls and get to see their confidence blossom all throughout the week. I’m looking forward to more interactions with the camp, and want to shout out everyone on the Programs Team who works so tirelessly to make the camps run smoothly.
You can find out more about Camp Latinitas here.