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: Shining Bright, GEMS: Digging Deeper, GEMS: Rock On, GEMS: Be Genuine and the bridge course for high school students, GEMS: Polishing Up by following the links to the program’s website.
GEMS: Shining Bright
Girls can begin their Girls Empowered by Mountain Shepherd (GEMS) journey during this five-day overnight experience hosted at Mountain Shepherd Adventure School. This 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.” Girls are also encouraged to explore their own personalities and communication styles, through which they gain an appreciation for teamwork and positive social interactions with their peers. GEMS Shining Bright enables girls to find courage, build confidence, and show compassion for others through exciting and educational activities, such as night hikes, team-building games, and the practice of survival skills. Girls will be Shining Bright and ready for more empowerment when they leave!
GEMS: Digging Deeper
Girls who feel prepared to dig deeper into the parallels between survival skills and their day-to-day lives are invited to take on new challenges and celebrate bigger accomplishments during GEMS Digging Deeper! This session is also a five-day overnight experience during which Girls Empowered will be challenged to step further outside their comfort zones by building on the skills and understandings they gained during GEMS Shining Bright. This experience begins with a review of the seven survival priorities, allowing girls to reflect upon their initial empowerment experiences. Then, girls spend the middle of the week on a 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
Avid Girls Empowered are invited to Rock On for another 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 new parallels to their ever-changing lives. Girls will be challenged to think independently and to cooperate with fellow GEMS to be successful throughout the week. While other GEMS levels are designed for girls going into grades 6-8, GEMS: Rock On is open to girls who are beginning or continuing high school, too. 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 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 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.