Girls Empowered by Mountain Shepherd (GEMS) is a program for girls and young women facilitated by Dina Imbriani of Mountain Shepherd and our partner non-profit, Wilderness Inspirations. Mountain Shepherd Adventure School hosts girls participating in the week-long overnight camp program each summer. The GEMS program gives middle-school and high-school girls the empowering opportunity to learn the seven survival priorities and practice survival skills while surrounded and supported by their peers. Girls also come to GEMS to learn about themselves, their personalities, how they communicate, and how they lead. The backcountry skills for which Mountain Shepherd is known indeed provide surprising connections to the campers’ lives in the “front-country.”
Additionally, Mountain Shepherd’s location and facility provide an excellent basecamp for GEMS campers to begin or continue their empowerment journeys. Girls just beginning their GEMS experience may sleep in a tent for the first time after a couple nights in the cozy bunk-room. Meanwhile, girls who have grown into the advanced courses will pack their backpacks and use the trails on the property to connect to the Appalachian Trail for a new adventure. Whether staying for a week or just using Mountain Shepherd as a launching pad for an excursion, GEMS campers feel welcomed and excited while here.
The series of GEMS summer camps challenges girls to expand their comfort zones through various outdoor adventures, and to dig deeper into their understandings of themselves. Read more about GEMS: Shining Bright, GEMS: Digging Deeper, GEMS: Rock On, GEMS: Be Genuine and GEMS: Crowning Jewel by following the links below.
GEMS: Shining Bright
GEMS Shining Bright enables girls to find courage, build confidence, and show compassion for others. This five-day overnight experience is designed for girls going into grades 6th-9th, with backcountry survival skills training, environmental education, and adventure activities. During Shining Bright, girls discover the seven survival priorities: positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, firecraft, signaling, water, and food. This experience introduces girls to the parallels between each survival priority and their lives in the “front country.” Girls explore their own personalities and communication styles, as they gain an appreciation for teamwork and positive social interactions. Girls leave camp Shining Bright, ready to take on new challenges!
GEMS: Digging Deeper
GEMS Digging Deeper is a five-day overnight experience during which GEMS will be challenged to step outside their comfort zones. This experience begins with a review of the seven survival priorities. Then, preparation begins for 2-night backpacking expedition along the nearby Appalachian Trail, where they will strengthen their survival skills and begin exploring their own unique leadership and communication styles. The week concludes with canoeing on Craig Creek, which allows girls to explore and prepare for situations that may be out of their element. GEMS Digging Deeper presents new challenges and opportunities for goal-setting to Girls Empowered, and girls will move forward with a deepened sense of courage, confidence, and compassion.
GEMS 3: Rock On
Rock On is an intensive five-day overnight experience focused on personal development and empowerment. This experience challenges girls in exciting ways by encouraging them to take on leadership roles among their peers while exploring new outdoor activities. While canoeing, camping, rappelling, stand up paddleboarding, and hiking, girls will discover parallels to their ever-changing lives. Girls are challenged to think independently and to cooperate with fellow GEMS to be successful throughout the week. Girls leave this inspiring and demanding week having grown into strong, compassionate, confident leaders, ready to Rock On in their communities!
GEMS: Be Genuine
GEMS: Be Genuine challenges campers with five days of personal growth and leadership development, plus plenty of outdoor adventures. Be Genuine campers use the survival, communication, leadership, and safety skills they’ve gained to plan outdoor adventures. Additionally, GEMS in Be Genuine will take trips away from camp to enjoy a starry night hike to McAfee Knob, dive deeper into kayaking and tubing on the Jackson River, hit the trails on bikes on the Jackson River Trail, and practice their confidence pose in mid-air while zip-lining at Buffalo Mountain Adventures! GEMS will grow to be GEMuinely authentic, adventurous advocates in GEMS: Be Genuine.
GEMS: Crowning Jewel
For those GEMS who have spent many a summer at Mountain Shepherd, we present Crowning Jewel! This session invites GEMS back to Mountain Shepherd for five days of new and exciting outdoor adventures, leadership development, self-sufficiency and confidence to continue your passion outdoors after GEMS. Crowning Jewel challenges girls to use every skill they have learned at Mountain Shepherd over the past few summers to tackle their final challenge – confidence in planning their custom adventures. One example is base-camping at Hungry Mother State Park while adventuring to the highest point in Virginia – Mount Rogers, biking the famous Creeper Trail from Whitetop to Damascus, soaring over one of the longest ziplines in Virginia, and enjoy tubing on the New River.