FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - Twelve female students from Tuba City High School (TCHS) recently returned from an adventure on the Colorado River, where they spent four days in March rafting through the Grand Canyon, learning practical wilderness skills and the ins and outs of rafting.
In collaboration with Grand Canyon Youth (GCY), the students also spent time out of the classroom with their mentors learning and laughing together.
The custom made trip was put together by Rob Windmiller, trip coordinator for the high school. The kids were interested in all aspects of river rafting- the safety, the logistics, how everything gets rigged and how camp gets set up.
Megan Dwyer, Americorps member for Grand Canyon Youth, said it was a new experience for the girls. They lucked out with weather and got to sleep under the stars for the first time.
"For a lot of girls on the trip it was their first time...roughing it although compared to backpacking, a river trip is kinda cush," she said. "It was their first introduction to the outdoors."
Dwyer also said that Windmiller, who has over 40 years of backpacking experience and river rafting experience, was moved by how the girls were so interested in all aspects of their trip.
"It was really encouraging for him to see those young women particularly get so invested in all of that," Dwyer said.
Originally the trip wasn't supposed to be an all-girl trip. But when all the guys backed out at the last minute, Windmiller was left with just the girls in what he said was "extra awesome." The kids fundraised to raise money for the trip.
Geri Thompson, a junior, said her favorite part of the trip was learning all about river safety and rafting while she also got to spend time in the wilderness with her friends.
"It was awesome getting to be on the paddle boat together, and even though some of the rapids looked scary, we were able to come together as a team and "punch" the waves, giggling all the way downstream," Thompson said. "We rocked every challenge presented to us. Girl power is real power!"
GCY's educational river programs encourage participants to try something new, help their peers overcome obstacles and be open to any unfamiliar opportunity that may present itself during the trip. All twelve of the TCHS girls took on those challenges without hesitation, highlighting what youth, and young women, are capable of doing.
Windmiller said the success of the all-girls program was because of the girls themselves.
"It was amazing to see these young women step-up and challenge themselves to learn new skills," Windmiller said. "It's encouraging to see them become interested and engaged in the outdoors, as it will help them deal with overcoming the challenges of growing up. I am excited for future collaboration with GCY to continue providing wilderness opportunities for our students in Tuba."
Debbie Yellowman, another chaperone and TCHS counselor for the program, thought it was an important team building and leadership experience.
"It was great to watch the girls make friends for life as they came together to share and face their fears, both in life and on the river," Yellowman said.
Grand Canyon Youth (GCY) is a nonprofit organization in Flagstaff, AZ serving diverse youth on educational river programs in the Southwest. GCY was founded in 1998, and now serves about 700 youth annually. More information is available by visiting www.gcyouth.org.
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