What could a small town in Virgina possibly have in common with a national recording artist? At face value, they seem worlds apart, but that isn’t the case. In fact, the two elements have come together to put faith in action as they pursue their passion of reaching young girls.
National recording artist Melinda Watts will host the G.L.A.M. (Girls Leadership & Mentoring) Camp November 30-December 2, in the cabins of Blackstone, Va., just an hour outside of Richmond. The mother-daughter focused weekend places its focus on underserved girls, ages 8-18, and provides a platform for leadership training and mentoring.
In this interview, Melinda Watts shares why she decided to takes her girl-centered non-profit, Dream Girlz Gathering, to a rural town in Virginia and the senior saint that got her attention.
What was your inspiration for bringing the G.L.A.M. Camp to the area?
“On my fan page I received a note from a lady, an older lady. She’s about 80 years old and lives in Blackstone, Va. She was concerned about the youth in her community and she said she had been reaching out to different people, different artists, trying to get someone to come and she reached out to me and in my heart I really felt like I needed to go. I run this camp every year, typically in the Philadelphia and New Jersey area. But this year, I really felt led to move into Blackstone. It’s a really small town but the people are amazing and it’s right outside Richmond, about an hour or so. That’s why I moved it there. It was one person who really had a desire to see something great come to their community and I felt if I had the ability to change and move it there. It’s been an amazing response, even though it’s a town in a rural community.”
“Honestly, it was her passion. She was so committed to having something for those young people and I felt like who am I to say, you know I only can go to a huge city. This isn’t my gift, it came from God and this is what I’m about so when I agreed to do it, it seemed like all the heavens and the angels kind of brought everything together. It’s so exciting. I’ve visited a couple of schools there; the kids are excited so I’m excited.”
What led you to create G.L.A.M. (Girls Leadership & Mentoring) Camp?
“I started out as a high school teacher and I ran a project for the state of California called Project Sunday and that program was ran through the school districts for at risk girls who were getting in trouble and having attendance issues and so what we did was we took that model out of the school system and when I became a recording artist and with that national platform, I brought those two together. It’s always been a passion of mine; I’ve always been a leader in my school and in college so I’ve always had a passion and a burden for young people so it kind of just came naturally.”
What do lessons/skills do you want the girls to take away from the camp?
“We will do a lot of fun activities like swimming, hiking. We’ll be doing a lot of team building, getting girls out of their comfort zone, especially taking them into a country atmosphere that’s different from the inner city. We’ll be having powerful praise and worship. The theme this year is “Because You’re Worth It” and I want them to take away knowing how much they are worth, not just in a natural sense. Everybody talks about building self-esteem and that’s all good but I want them to know how valuable they are to God and His love for them. And once you get a glimpse of God’s love for you, your whole life will change. It will change how you see yourself in the world. So that’s what I want them to take away from this. We also have Prophetess Kelly Crews from Ohio coming for our Sunday service. It’s going to be amazing. So I want them to really know who they are and then they can become better leaders and they can begin to set standards for their life and their community.”
What do you see as some of the things facing young ladies today?
“Well, actually, it’s changed quite a bit from when I first started. Back then, it was just girls getting into fights, teen pregnancy and attendance issues, drop our rates. But now, we’re dealing with human trafficking, which is a huge issue, even in America which was surprising to me at the time I started being an advocate for it. So, a lot of girls are facing issues, being in foster care that stems into a lot of other issues. It’s definitely something I’m committed to doing.”
How did you pull together your team?
“I’ve been working with Neechy since the beginning of the conferences that I started doing a few years ago. Neechy has a heart for young people. What I find is a lot of people do things in ministry but behind that they have other passions. I choose people who have like passions like myself. Y’Anna Crawley (Stellar Award Winner/Sunday Best Winner) is from the D.C. area and she also has a foundation to help teen mothers because she was a teen mother and so Breeland Freeman is Dr. Michael Freeman’s daughter and she’s an entrepreneur and I wanted the younger girls to see. I believe she’s about 19 or 20 and has her own business and she’s flourishing. So that’s how I chose people who have a heart to serve young girls but also have a ministry or their heart is after God as well.”
On a musical note, when can fans expect to see your sophomore album?
“You will be able to hear music coming from me this spring and I’m so excited about it. I have expanded my ministry but music is definitely at the foundation. So you’ll be able to hear new music from me this spring, and also a book that I am writing.”
What would you say to artists who get into the industry and get a platform? What is their responsibility when they have that platform?
“I believe that when God gives you or expands you into different territory, you get a larger platform, I believe it’s very important to stay true to what God has asked you to do. God doesn’t commission everybody to do what I’m doing. Some people are only supposed to do one-dimensional ministry and that’s fine, but I believe even in that, there is a responsibility to who God has called you to. But in the event that God has given you other things to do, I would say it’s important to do those things because there’s a reason why He’s putting it in your hands. Some people may just be comfortable with doing singing or just preaching, but if God has given you other things to expand His kingdom, I believe it’s important that we stay true to that and I believe God will continue to add to you and take you to different levels and dimensions when you’re obedient to that call.”
Mothers are also encouraged to attend the 3-day camp and tickets are $99 for each participant; registration includes food and lodging. The Saturday evening concert is open to the public and tickets are $10. For more information visit www.melindawatts.com/conferences