As we head into the next year at SheJumps, we are not only doubling down on our mission, we are striving to do it even better–more affordably, approachable, and accessible. We are widening our scope and expanding our reach. We are transforming–not into an organization you won’t recognize in the future–but into an organization you always knew us to be. We are SheJumps. We Dream. We Jump. We Grow. And I hope you’ll join us.
Photo by Micheli Oliver
Earlier this year, I was voted in as the Chair of the Board of Directors. Humbled and honored, I shifted into the role of leadership and governance of the organization that I first started volunteering with in 2016. Within a few weeks, our executive director, Claire Smallwood, mentioned that we had some big milestones fast approaching–one being our fifteenth birthday. We were also, at that time, recruiting staff for newly created positions to support our growth and development. As I saw it, we were in our organization’s adolescence. I think we can all remember (though, perhaps we don’t want to) our own adolescence: our bodies not entirely fitting our minds and our minds definitely not fitting our bodies. As a psychologist, I can’t help but think about how SheJumps (and every adolescent everywhere) has the task of digging into their values, setting clear goals, and crystallizing their identity.
When I was sixteen, I went on my first multi-day backpack. I was at a YMCA summer camp, about two hours north of the City, that I had attended for the past five years. There were ten of us–counselors-in-training–and we were both totally ready and disastrously ill-equipped for our mission. The preparations were physical, the lack thereof entirely mental. We spent ten days, probably walking in circles, out in the Catskill mountains as we transitioned from child-like explorers into some iteration of maturing teens, ready to not only care for ourselves but for the children of parents like our own.
We navigated our path, cooked for ourselves (I spilled the cous cous one night, leaving the entire group hungry and a little angry with me), and developed life long friendship. Moreover, we each transformed in ways I am still (at 42) feeling the effects of.
I was a lanky, awkward adolescent. Too young for my wit and too old for my obsession with stickers. (some might argue none of that has changed–if you need a girafficorn sticker, hit me up). In the woods, however, about five (or fifty, we had no idea where we were) miles away from the nearest mirror, months away from school, and just a few years away from “adulthood,” I was transformed.
To this day, when I need to shake things up or shift my perspective, I head to the woods. Often it’s not for nearly as long as the ten-days we spent meandering through those woods guided by two counselors who responded to nearly every question with a question, but whether it’s for 10 hours or 10 minutes, I typically find some thread of the thing I came for–a reminder of who I am when everything else melts away.
Outdoor play doesn’t necessarily transform us; it invites us to be who we have always been. The caterpillar is always a butterfly. It simply needs the right conditions to spread its wings. Take for example that fateful backpacking trip; for me that meant confidence. I was always brave, I was always wise, I was always resourceful. There were just some things that had gotten in the way.
When I was sixteen, I went to the woods and emerged becoming the woman I was always meant to be. This year, SheJumps is heading into our sixteenth year. We are in the midst of our own starry-eyed, big dreaming adolescent phase. For fifteen years we’ve been offering incredible programming that invites girls and women into the outdoors to transform into the people they were always meant to be. We have taught clinics and led workshops, we have trekked and skied, learned and grown together, we have asked for your help and your participation and you have–always and readily–answered.
Thank you for being part of our community and supporting SheJumps
Dr. Sara Boilen
Chair, SheJumps Board of Directors