The Monroe Library at Loyola University is pretty empty and silent during these hot summer days — with one very notable exception.

Tucked into a corner of the second floor is a little room where color bursts from every turn. Jewel-tone fabrics are draped from partitions. Old windows are propped about, hand-painted with joyful scenes. Tables around the perimeter are draped in bright pink cloths and adorned with colorful painted boxes and signs that proclaim things like, “Believe in Your Dreams,” “You are Beautiful,” and “Good Vibes Only.”

In the middle of the room lies a teal rug sprinkled with Moroccan-style pillows, and draped across those pillows are teenage girls.

“What is trust?” asks the leader of the group, whose purple-tinged hair makes her a natural extension of the surroundings. “How do you know you can trust someone?”

Lauren Perry is the director of The Beautiful Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping area teen girls develop leadership skills and enhance their emotional, physical and mental well-being. Created in 1999 by a mother and daughter to fill what they saw as a critical need, by 2012 the organization had worked with nearly 2,500 young women through after-school and summer programs.

Perry counts herself among the girls whose lives were empowered by the foundation.

“I was a student at the summer program in 2005,” she said. “I was 14 at the time, and it really opened my eyes. It was the first time I really hung out with girls from different backgrounds than me. Over the six weeks, we talked about our anxieties, our pressures with school transitions and relationships, and I learned how alike we all were. We all just wanted to feel loved and beautiful.”

Perry was so taken with her experience that four years later, after graduating from high school, she began volunteering as a mentor with The Beautiful Foundation.

In 2012, she learned that the organization was in risk of closing.

“E.J. and Christina, the mother and daughter who started it, were so busy with their own careers and successes and the organization was really in need of restructuring and rebranding, so I offered to be the one to take that on,” she said. “In March of 2015, I became the new executive director.”

One of Perry’s big goals was restoring the foundation’s summer camp, Camp Beautiful, a six-week program for girls ages 12 to 15 that had not been run since 2010.

“It was how I was introduced to the program, so the camp really has a special place in my heart,” Perry said.

While the overall goals of Camp Beautiful remain the same — to empower and educate young women — the topics covered in the daily sessions have changed since Perry attended 10 years ago.

“This summer, we’re discussing things like cyber bullying and social media responsibility,” she said. “These are things that, of course, weren’t an issue years ago, but they definitely are now.”

This summer’s group of about 10 girls has been meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday since June 20.

Among them is Symone Bolds, an incoming eighth-grader at Calvary Baptist School who says she wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of Camp Beautiful.

“My parents were looking at summer camps and wanted something for me that dealt with things like self-esteem and body issues, and they found this camp,” she said. “At first I didn’t want to go. I didn’t see swimming anywhere on there, and I really wanted to be swimming.”

Bolds said she’s since had a drastic change of heart.

“We got to go to a spa one day, and we went and learned teamwork through a trip to Clue Carrè,” she said. “It’s been really fun. Plus, we’ve learned things like how to keep from bullying yourself and how to really be confident in being yourself.”

Like Perry, however, Bolds said the real power of the program is the relationships that are built among girls from all over the city.

“It’s like being with not just friends, but a real family every day,” she said. “Here I can say anything and nobody judges me. We’re all here to help each other and to have fun.”

The Monroe Library at Loyola University is pretty empty and silent during these hot summer days — with one very notable exception.

Tucked into a corner of the second floor is a little room where color bursts from every turn. Jewel-tone fabrics are draped from partitions. Old windows are propped about, hand-painted with joyful scenes. Tables around the perimeter are draped in bright pink cloths and adorned with colorful painted boxes and signs that proclaim things like, “Believe in Your Dreams,” “You are Beautiful,” and “Good Vibes Only.”

In the middle of the room lies a teal rug sprinkled with Moroccan-style pillows, and draped across those pillows are teenage girls.

“What is trust?” asks the leader of the group, whose purple-tinged hair makes her seem a natural extension of the surroundings. “How do you know you can trust someone?”

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CampBeaut.NC_SG_03.JPG

Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- Lenora Burton, 14, left, participates in a team building game with her instructor Lauren Perry and mentor Amber Simmons during Camp Beautiful in Lindy Boggs Center on Loyola University New Orleans' campus, Thursday July 7, 2016. The camp for middle school girls focuses on leadership skills and how to focusing on their emotional, physical, and mental well being.

Lauren Perry is the director of The Beautiful Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping area teen girls develop leadership skills and enhance their emotional, physical and mental well-being. Created in 1999 by a mother and daughter to fill what they saw as a critical need, by 2012 the organization worked with nearly 2,500 young women through after-school and summer programs.

Perry counts herself among the girls whose lives were empowered by the foundation.

“I was a student at the summer program in 2005,” she said. “I was 14 at the time, and it really opened my eyes. It was the first time I really hung out with girls from different backgrounds than me. Over the six weeks we talked about our anxieties, our pressures with school transitions and relationships, and I learned how alike we all were. We all just wanted to feel loved and beautiful.”

Perry was so taken with her experience that four years later, after graduating high school, she began volunteering as a mentor with The Beautiful Foundation.

In 2012, she learned that the organization was in risk of closing.

“EJ and Christina, the mother and daughter who started it, were so busy with their own careers and successes and the organization was really in need of restructuring and rebranding, so I offered to be the one to take that on,” she said. “In March of 2015 I became the new executive director.”

One of Perry's big goals Perry was restoring the foundation’s summer camp, Camp Beautiful, a six-week program for girls ages 12 to 15 that had not been run since 2010.

“It was how I was introduced to the program, so the camp really has a special place in my heart,” Perry said.

While the overall goals of Camp Beautiful remain the same — to empower and educate young women — the topics covered in the daily sessions have changed since Perry attended 10 years ago.

“This summer we’re discussing things like cyber bullying and social media responsibility,” she said. “These are things that of course weren’t an issue years ago, but they definitely are now.”

This summer’s group of about 10 girls has been meeting from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday since June 20.

+6 
CampBeaut.NC_SG_09.JPG

Advocate photo by SOPHIA GERMER -- Symone Bolds, 13, participates in the discussion about peer pressure during Camp Beautiful in the Monroe Library on Loyola University New Orleans' campus, Thursday July 7, 2016. The camp for middle school girls focuses on leadership skills and how to focusing on their emotional, physical, and mental well being.

Among them is Symone Bolds, an incoming eighth grader at Calvary Baptist School who says she wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of Camp Beautiful.

“My parents were looking at summer camps and wanted something for me that dealt with things like self-esteem and body issues, and they found this camp,” she said. “At first I didn’t want to go. I didn’t see swimming anywhere on there, and I really wanted to be swimming.

Bolds said she’s since had a drastic change of heart.

“We got to go to a spa one day, and we went and learned teamwork through a trip to Clue Carrè,” she said. “It’s been really fun. Plus, we’ve learned things like how to keep from bullying yourself and how to really be confident in being yourself.”

Like Perry, however, Bolds said the real power of the program is the relationships that are built among girls from all over the city.

“It’s like being with not just friends, but a real family every day,” she said. “Here I can say anything and nobody judges me. We’re all here to help each other and to have fun.”