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The Leader

Alumni Start Non-profits Around the World

By Alicia Giuffrida
Reprinted from The Leader, Summer 2002, Vol. 17 No. 3

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When Amy Manhart had her first wilderness adventure experience, she noticed something she didn’t like. “Everyone slipped right into traditional gender roles,” she recalls. “The women did the cooking and the dishes, the men read the maps and did the route-finding.” Later, when working with a group of younger adventurers, she noticed that everyone shared tasks equally. “I started to think about when and why that shift took place.”

Then Amy read “Reviving Ophelia,” a disturbing and eye-opening book by Mary Pipher that describes the cultural hardships faced by adolescent girls. “I highly recommend this book to everyone,” she says. “It was after reading it that I said to myself, ‘I need to change this.’” So with a little encouragement from a friend, she founded GAP! (Girls Actively Participating), an afterschool program for middle-school girls in Jackson, Wyoming.

"We meet once a week, sixth graders on Tuesday seventh and eighth graders on Wednesday. Middle is harder than high school…it’s a pretty small scene, without a lot of options,” she observes. “We women from the community come and speak, we do community service projects…but the most important we do is have fun together. The girls love being each other. And really the underlying agenda is to increase self–esteem.”

During GAP!’s second year, a friend and NOLS suggested Manhart try another outdoor adventure, time with NOLS. She took a 25 and Over Alaska Kayaking course (WSA 6/11/00), for which she awarded the Teton Petzoldt scholarship, and noticed of the same gender-roles being performed.

This time, though,” she says, “I was ready to take risks, and I jumped into everything. NOLS helped focus on that growing confidence… I left the course renewed commitment to ensure every girl coming through my classroom or my GAP! program would not from a challenge, but would meet it with determination.”

Amy and her GAP! girls do all their own fundraising, leaving the program free of cost to all the participants. “I want to stress that anyone can start a program like this—it’s easy to reach out, and it makes a huge difference.”

To find out more about starting similar programs e-mail Amy at

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Alicia Giuffrida (SSPM-1 9/25/98) lives in Lander, Wyoming, where she climbs, writes and fosters dreams of starting her own non-profit one day.



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