Team Building, Women’s Courses and GEMS Camp
Dina Bennett was born in California and raised in Chicago and Roanoke, Virginia. Her career began in the corporate world, where she trained and coached sales staffs around the country. In 2006, a new door opened for Dina as she completed her first survival course taught by Reggie Bennett (now Dina’s husband). Motivated by this challenging experience, Dina set out to open this new door for others, too, and especially for other women.
During that introductory course, Dina realized how many parallels existed between survival skills in the backcountry and social or professional situations in the “front-country.” She dove deep into these connections, and she came back to the surface feeling more self-aware, confident, motivated, and courageous – empowered.
Dina is now Vice President of and instructor for Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School, and a co-creator of Girls Empowered by Mountain Shepherd, both in Catawba, Virginia. Her greatest satisfaction comes from sharing her own drive for adventure and journey to empowerment with others. Her unique curriculum based on those same parallels has changed the lives of all of her students, who range from corporate professionals to young families and from empty-nesters to college undergraduates.
Dina’s most recent endeavor is the GEMS summer camp program, which fosters courage, confidence, and compassion in pre-teen and teenage girls through the exploration of the same seven survival priorities taught to adults at Mountain Shepherd. Girls discover the great outdoors and their own great personalities while at GEMS, and they emerge as confident leaders, prepared to help others and achieve their own goals. For Dina, GEMS is the result of 10 years of dreaming big and digging deeper.
Jon Guy Owens
Jon Guy Owens is a native of western North Carolina and has been working in adventure recreation for just over 20 year. Jon Guy graduated from Western Carolina University in 1997 with a degree in Recreation Therapy, and went on to get a Master’s in Experiential and Environmental Studies at Radford University in 2000. He started his journey as a raft guide on the Nantahala River in 1994 and has since worked teaching rock climbing, canoe and kayak paddling, caving and fly fishing to name a few. For the last 15 years Jon Guy has been working as the Director of the Hollins Outdoor Program at Hollins University in Roanoke, VA.
Dani Derringer was raised in Roanoke, VA. She earned a Bachelors Degree in Math from the prestigious College of William and Mary. Graduate school led her home to Roanoke at Hollins University. While earning her Masters of Arts in Teaching, she learned from and worked with the Hollins Outdoor Program (HOP). Dani quickly started working as a trip leader.
Dani’s first job took her to the Chesapeake Bay area to teach at a boarding school. She taught math class, facilitated study hall on dorm, coached swimming, and co-lead River Immersion. Dani enjoyed spending time after school teaching students to canoe and fish in the Rappahannock wetlands.
In addition to teaching and exploring the outdoors, Dani loves to travel. She had the opportunity to travel to five continents on a variety of personal and professional trips.
Kayla has called both Virginia Beach and Wise County, Virginia “home,” though she feels at home wherever she can be outdoors.
In 2016, Kayla graduated from Hollins University with a B.A. in both Environmental Studies and Sociology, along with a certificate in Leadership Studies from the Batten Leadership Institute. At Hollins, she participated in the Hollins Outdoor Program, the campus community garden, student government, the First Year Seminar experience, and the equestrian program. She also gained plenty of experiential education experience during 5 months of studying abroad with The School for Field Studies in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Costa Rica.
Outdoor experiences just for girls are near and dear to her heart, as Kayla has been a Girl Scout and a two-time counselor at an all-girls camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Kayla has a passion for empowerment and education in outdoor spaces that has been inspired by recent experiences like Dina Bennett’s “Survival for the Modern World” course for Hollins students, completion of the Wilderness First Responder certification, and time spent as an environmental educator and canoeing instructor by the Chesapeake Bay. She enjoys bringing backcountry lessons into the “front-country” whenever possible.
Maria Vest is from southern Maryland and pursuing a Biology degree at Hollins University. During her first year, she became involved with the Hollins Outdoor Program and has since become a trip leader and member of the downriver racing team. She has led many hiking trips and the wilderness orientation trip for incoming freshman students at Hollins. As an experienced rider, Maria is also a member of the equestrian program. Maria earned her Wilderness First Aid certification in March 2018.