Tuesday, May 6, 2014

GUTS! Internship by Ashley Perry

This semester I got to work with GUTS!, a program though YWCA in Missoula. GUTS! is a non-profit organization that stands for “Girls Using Their Strengths.”  This unique leadership and empowerment program is designed by and for young women.  The program encourages young women to explore their personal values and discover their strengths through wilderness adventures in the summer and during after-school groups. 

During my semester, I helped with the planning for the summer adventure trips.  These trips give girls a unique experience to increase self-confidence, hone individual strengths and cultivate their appreciation for the natural world in an environment free from societal pressures.  My main focus was on the Youth Leadership Training Trip, a new addition to the program this summer.  This trip offers leadership training and an opportunity to help lead younger GUTS! trips this summer.  This trip consists of four days backpacking in the Bitterroot, to complete additional leadership training.  I also helped with the other summer trips which include, Girls on Wheels Bike Adventure, Wild Horse Island Adventure, Pintler Backpacking Adventure and Bitterroot Adventure.  All of these trips give the girls such a unique experience, to explore Montana. The trips also include different service projects around Montana like garden harvesting, meals on wheels, helping at AniMeals, and a service project with Five Valleys Land Trust. 

Before working with GUTS! I had no idea how much time goes into all the details of trips like these.  We had to get permits for each area, scout the trails, go over applications, make thousands of phone calls and do lots of research.  It was hard work, but I always loved going in and finding more activities for the girls to do during their amazing week.  It is really special to be a part of a program that gives girls such a unique experience, that is important to have in their lives.  GUTS! offers families scholarships for the different trips and are reasonably priced for an unforgettable experience. 

GUTS! after school program offers girls a safe environment to be them-selves and further their confidence as a young lady.  

I worked with six fourth grade girls that always came in the door with huge smiles on their face, excited for GUTS!.  This was something I looked forward to every week, as the girls warmed my heart with their ideas and willing-ness to make a difference in the community.  My co-leader and I mentioned doing a service project to our group, and before we could finish explaining it they were already making signs and planning it out. The girls planned a bake and jewelry sale for a local the animal shelter in Missoula.  We spent a couple weeks making posters and jewelry for the fundraiser in September.  Every week we do a variety of activities for the girls about different topics that may come up in elementary school.  Their favorite activities consisted of a variety of skits and making up GUTS! raps that are absolutely adorable and beyond creative.  The power these young ladies have as leaders is remarkable at such a young age.  Every girl should have the opportunity to be involved in something similar to GUTS!.  It is important that we continue to fund these programs to keep our youth engaged, empowered and the aware of the world of opportunities around them. 

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