I first met Vali in a Program Evaluation course this January. Hearing her share the story of Act Like A Grrrl and the grrrls for the first time made me wish that ALAG had existed where I grew up. By mid-semester, we decided to move forward and put the program evaluation into motion this summer. I’ve worked within camps for almost a decade, and with youth longer than that, but there is so clearly something especially unique about the ALAG program, grrrls and leaders.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I would find as I joined the journey into the woods with twelve teenage grrrls and six women coleaders. I knew it would be an adventure—and I hoped to witness some magic.
Over spring break when I first met some of the grrrls, I told Vali it was like finding out unicorns were real—and more, they have their own camp.
After even just a handful of days here with ALAG, this continues to be my understanding.
The land at Golden Wings has a steadiness and peace that it shares with us. Open space and fresh air allow each of us to breath a little deeper. The warm, sturdy earth beneath our bare feet helps to keep us grounded as we begin each day. I am writing from the porch of our retreat home, sitting on a red rocking chair, watching dusk heavy the air. Fireflies sparkle in the space between myself and the grrrl filled yurt. just across the field. From here I can hear giggles and belly laughs, stomps and snaps as the grrrls work through a dance movement session. I hear the steady call of the coleader calling out the counts to the rhythm of the beat. These noises find their place amongst the chirping insects preparing for evening. All of these sounds feel like they belong here.
Together. The grrrls are growing in their capacity to appreciate and connect with the generations of ALAG, guest artists and guides, with nature and with their truest selves. This time together allows each of us to connect more fully with each of these pieces of ALAG—giving us space to ask and answer questions that we’ve never asked or answered before.
I see grrrls reclaiming their strength, curiosity and silliness. I see grrrls listening, really listening to each other. I see grrrls begin to trust the circle around them and the voice inside of themselves. I see grrrls becoming visibly more relaxed and confident—not only in their writing but also in conversations around the dinner table. I see returning grrrls work to navigate and share this space with the newest cohort of grrrls. I see grrrls catch them selves in sarcasm- and begin to say what they mean and mean what they say. I see grrrls immersed in prompts and activities that require them to jump out of their comfort zone. I see grrrls take brick after brick down from their wall and let us see pieces more of their authentic selves. I see grrrls work towards becoming their best selves.
So much of the beautiful happenings are taking place within each grrrl- exploding more and more through writing, song, dance and conversation. I can only imagine what will happen when these grrrls share their voices with the world.
Marisa Flores is a graduate student at Vanderbilt University and co-leader at Act Like a GRRRL 2016.