Girls Empowered by Mountain Shepherd

GEMS are Girls Empowered through exploration of seven survival priorities: positive mental attitude, first aid, shelter, fire, signaling, water, and food. During a five-day overnight experience, GEMS learn the practical skills associated with each priority. Girls also discover the parallels between each survival priority and their lives in the “front country.” GEMS gain an appreciation for their natural and social surroundings through fun — and deceptively educational — activities such as night hikes, team-building games, and biodiversity studies. After five days, GEMS leave with confidence and compassion, knowing more about themselves and how they interpret and interact with their world.


Education research indicates girls benefit from single sex settings, especially for math and science. Although such research opens a door for interesting debate around the comparison of single sex versus coed learning settings, Mountain Shepherd focuses on the positive impact of providing a safe space for girls to explore their interests. Here we encourage girls to explore and express their femininity without sacrificing their rugged strength. Middle school in particular is a critical time for brain development. The GEMS program is designed to give girls the tools they need to be confident and powerful in whatever environment they face during and after their teenage years.

Becoming a GEM

Girls come to this camp to learn the “GEMS Way”. No prior outdoor or summer camp experience is necessary to reap the benefits of this five-day overnight experience. During these five days, girls learn the seven priorities for survival. They engage with each other, the instructors, and outside experts to learn more about themselves. Girls practice using the seven survival priorities as a framework for anticipating and overcoming life’s challenges.

GEMS 4 Life

As an accomplished GEM, girls can move to advanced courses which challenge their comfort zone. GEMS spend time building stronger skills. They reflect on how camp has helped them overcome challenges in the past years; they track their maturation. Using their knowledge of self, girls focus on building empathy for other people.
After a review of the seven survival priorities, the advanced camps provide more opportunity for high adventure, like backpacking, rock climbing, canoeing, camping and caving. What were challenge-by-choice in Becoming a GEM are now expectations. Girls leave these camps with a deepen sense of courage, confidence, and compassion. #gems4life

About Mountain Shepherd Survival School

GEMS for G.I.R.L.s

GEMS for G.I.R.L.s

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Strong Women Wednesday – Feb. 21, 2018

#StrongWomenWednesday: Shaesta Waiz Here’s the story of another strong, trailblazing woman! Shaesta Waiz is the first certified civilian female pilot from Afghanistan and the first person in her family to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees from a university. She’s...

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See our story in The Roanoke Times for an in depth video and more information about how GEMs can teach life lessons.