Girls Empowered by Mountain Shepherd (GEMS) is a program for girls and young women facilitated by Dina Bennett of Mountain Shepherd and our partner non-profit, Wilderness Inspirations. Mountain Shepherd Survival 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 1: Shining Bright, GEMS 2: Digging Deeper, GEMS 3: Rock On, and the bridge course for high school students, GEMS: Polishing Up by following the links to the program’s website.
GEMS 1: Shining Bright
This introductory session is designed for girls going into grades 6-8. 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.”
GEMS 3: Rock On
Avid Girls Empowered are invited to Rock On for another intensive five-day overnight experience focused on personal development and empowerment.
GEMS 4: Be Genuine
GEMS who have already shined bright, dug deeper, and rocked on are ready to Be Genuine on their fourth exciting endeavor! This session invites GEMS back to Mountain Shepherd for five days of personal growth and leadership development, plus plenty of outdoor adventures. Be Genuine challenges girls to use the survival, communication, leadership, and safety skills they’ve gained to plan an outdoor adventure, explore civil debate and compromise, investigate environmental issues, practice public speaking, and discover nutrition and personal health. Additionally, GEMS in Be Genuine will take day trips away from camp to practice land navigation on a hike to Huckleberry Knob, dive deeper into stand-up paddling and hit the trails on mountain bikes at Carvin’s Cove, experience nature on horseback at Hollins University, and practice their confidence pose in mid-air while ziplining in New Castle! GEMS will grow to be GEMuinely authentic, adventurous advocates in GEMS 4: Be Genuine.