As outdoor-loving mountain women, we’ve all felt the growth that comes from pushing ourselves in the mountains. It’s not always easy, it’s often scary and sometimes leaves you questioning why you’ve chosen this challenge of testing yourself against the elements. The growth that comes from this way of life is priceless, and there’s nothing else like it. Kristen Van Norman knows and believes in the power and change that can occur when women explore the wild.
Her base is a B.A. in Political Science, an M.A. in International Human Rights with concentrations on Gender and International Law in the Middle East. She fostered this education in Kabul, Afghanistan with Ascend Athletics, a US based not-for-profit working to empower young women through mountaineering based leadership training. After seeing the power that can come from believing in women and their potential for greatness on the other side of the world, Kristen began brainstorming options in her own community of Buena Vista, Colorado.
ElevateHER was born in January of 2017 in Buena Vista, and now also has a Salida chapter. The program is for girls in 6th-12th grades and aims to build a strong and connected community by inspiring empathetic leadership and environmental stewardship in young women. Currently, the focuses ahead are standardizing curriculum by offering different scaffolded phases for outdoor skills, creating a Women’s Program to offer all-women learning environment clinics, and an International capstone for graduating girls- an effort to open up the whole world beyond Colorado and to combat bigotry and discrimination.
“Being together as women is just super powerful. I’ve seen how we’ve encouraged each other, how we talk to each other, and teach each other. I’ve already seen an effect. That’s what we want. We want the girls to be able to handle any difficult situation that comes their way.”
Kristen hopes this program can expand to other communities, and a powerful ripple effect will be seen as adolescent girls find their grit and confidence. “If they all of the sudden can climb a 5’11 or guide a class IV rapid, awesome, but I want to see what it can do for them personally and mentally, and that’s our focus.”
Check out this important and passionate program at elevateHERco.org
by Anna Sitton Winger
Mountain Women Magazine | A magazine for Women filled with a passion for living life in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and beyond.
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