For the girls, by the girls: The story of Rachel and Mia Hamaker

As most siblings can attest, growing up a mere year or two apart can be a sometimes testy situation.

In the case of Rachel and Mia Hamaker of Lee’s Summit, the term sibling rivalry no longer applies.

“They do well,” said Valerie Hamaker, the girls’ mother. “Family matters. We rely on each other. Friends are important, but when all else fails, siblings can be your best friend. That to me is important.”

The girls are two of only 36 to participate in the upcoming, inaugural Discovery Girls Tween Summit July 20-26 in the San Francisco Bay area, and will be featured in a future issue of Discovery Girls magazine, whose readership eclipses the one million mark.

The softball-playing Rachel, 10, and the volleyball-playing Mia, 12, were the only set of sisters out of 8,000 applicants from across North America selected for the summit, and are the only girls in attendance from the Kansas City Metropolitan area.

“We always talk in our home about how we want them to be leaders among their friends,” Valerie Hamaker said of her and husband Nathan’s guidance of four children, including 8-year-old Lincoln and 6-year-old Andrew. “We want them to stand up for what they believe even if it’s different, even if it’s not popular. We want them to be disciplined, we want them to be kind, and to look out for kids that have special needs or who are not fitting in.

“Although I am not a big advocate for pageantry type of things, this to me was different because it represented how girls can be leaders in their communities and I really liked that.”

The family was notified in late May that the sisters – who are both heavily involved with the violin and activities at their church – had earned a spot at the summit. Valerie Hamaker cited her daughters’ perspectives and attitudes about issues facing today’s tween-age girls that made them ideal candidates for the event.

“They have wanted to apply for this for several years now,” she said. “When they became eligible to apply, I let them do it, but the odds of them winning were infinitely smaller now that they were competing against thousands of thousands, rather than just a handful of girls from Missouri (in a regional application process). They applied and lo and behold, when they won, we were pretty shocked.”

As part of the selection process, Rachel and Mia had to write responses to a 12-question summit application that demonstrated the leadership, compassion, determination and enthusiasm of Discovery Girls, the only national magazine created by and for girls ages 8 and up. Readers are featured on the cover and throughout each issue, and act as the editorial board – writing articles, suggesting story ideas and shaping every aspect of the bi-monthly magazine.

“Pretty much it’s a camp for the girls who got chosen out of 36 from all over the United States and Canada,” Rachel Hamaker said of the summit. “We’re going to be doing lots of different photo shoots for the magazine and we’re going to be just pretty much getting to know each other and talking a lot about the questionnaire and what we said in it, and all sorts of stuff like that.”

Added Mia Hamaker: “It’s really exciting that we got chosen to be in this magazine because not many girls get to do it. It’s just going to be really fun.”

As part of the inaugural Discovery Girl’s Tween Summit, Rachel, Mia and the other 34 participants will write articles about their personal and shared experiences. They will get a chance to explore topics such as body image, in-person and online bullying, technology and social skills, plus pressures to date and grow up too fast.

Their stories will be published in future issues of Discovery Girls.

“They will be some of the main writers for all of the magazines for 2014,” Valerie Hamaker said of Tween Summit contributors. “This magazine is intended to be written for the girls by the girls. They actually answer a lot of the questions written into the editors of the magazine so that they can get a true girl’s perspective about adolescent issues.”

“The goal of the summit, and of Discovery Girls in general, is to build confidence and resilience in young girls,” Catherine Lee, Discovery Girls founder and CEO, said in a statement. “If girls develop a healthy self-image during their preteen years, they are more likely to grow into independent women and to make better choices as teens and adults.

“We want girls to know they’re not alone in their struggles and they can help each other overcome their greatest challenges.”