BENTON — When she was nine years old, Madison Morin ditched recess and instead started an environmental club called Helping Hands, focusing her free time on recycling and cleaning up the playground at Benton Elementary School.

It’s this type of motivation and determination that gave Morin, now 11, the chance for a trip of a lifetime: the inaugural Discovery Girls Tween Summit.

Discovery Girls is a bimonthly magazine aimed at girls 8 through 13.

This year was the first year for the Tween Summit, which took place July 20 to 26 and brought together readers of the magazine from across the U.S. and Canada to engage in open, solution-oriented conversations about obstacles and pressures facing girls today. Morin had been reading the magazine for the last two years when she saw advertisements for the upcoming summit.

“The day after I saw it, I kept thinking about it,” Morin said. “I kept thinking and thought I should do it.”

The process required Morin to answer a 12-question application on topics important to young girls. Issues covered at the summit include bullying, body image and peer pressure. Filling out the questionnaire was challenging.

“I spent about two months on it,” revising it many times, Morin said.

Morin sent the application in at the beginning of May and found out at the end of the month that she was one of 36 girls out of 8,000 that had been selected to attend.

“I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d get picked,” Morin said. “I was really happy when I found out that I did.”

Morin, who enjoys basketball and playing the trumpet and piano, described peer pressure and the burden to fit in as one of the prominent problems affecting younger girls.

“Everyone is trying to fit in. Why try to do that when you can just stand out?” Morin said. “You’ll do something because everyone else is doing it, and I’m trying to show girls that it shouldn’t always be that way. You are your own individual so you shouldn’t be like everybody else.

“What I’m trying to do is let people know they should be themselves.”

Morin, who said she wants to be an ecological architect when she grows up, will be featured in next year’s February/March edition of Discovery Girls.

Finding out in late May that she was chosen, Morin still had about a month and a half of anticipation, which doubled as a month and a half of fundraising, because the trip provided housing but not air fare to San Francisco, where the summit was held. To counter that, Morin went from Benton business to Benton business to fundraise. While doing that, Morin was also video chatting on Skype with some of the other girls she would meet.

Once at the summit, Morin described a frenetic pace of photo shoots for upcoming magazine editions, relationship-building activities and exciting excursions. The days were so packed that it was tough for Morin to adjust to the time difference and stay up late with her new friends.

“One thing that was kind of hard for me was staying up late, because I go to bed early anyway, and we were staying up until 10 or 11 p.m. (Pacific time),” Morin said. “I couldn’t stay up with them, but the good thing was I would wake up early.”

Morin said there were six girls in her group, including her. Each group participated in activities that will be highlighted by photos and captions in upcoming issues of Discovery Girls. Morin’s group played 80s-themed bowling.

Morin said the lasting memories she’ll have from her trip are the new relationships formed with girls she would have never met otherwise.

“They were all really nice and we got really close,” she said. “One was from Toronto, one from Washington state, one from New Jersey. They were all from different parts of the country, so it was really cool.”

Morin said the Helping Hands club stopped after her friend that had helped set it up moved to Arizona. But she’s excited to go back to school in the fall and get it started again with her new experiences and knowledge.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]

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