High Rocks Academy For Girls
Hillsboro, West Virginia


In June 2008, I volunteered to teach in the horse program at New Beginnings camp at High Rocks Academy for Girls, a four-year mentoring program for girls in rural West Virginia. The program aims to enable these girls to complete their high school educations and aim for college or technical schools to help them succeed in their lives. Based in beautiful Pocahontas County, which at 12 percent suffers the highest unemployment rate in West Virginia (Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2008), the 14-year-old program has provided a safe haven for dozens of young women.

The New Beginnings 2008 campers included 17 girls newly graduated from eighth grade. Each passed a formal application process, including writing an essay, and was accepted


to the two-week immersion into what will become, for those who opt to become "High Rocks Girls," an intensive support through their high-school careers.


The ambitious curriculum at camp included math, creatively taught with a focus on problem-solving, and science, focusing on appreciation and preservation of the beautiful natural surroundings. Girls also took part in a creative class, with writing and art projects to help them find appropriate ways to explore and express their emotions. And, of course, the horse class, which taught basic horse-handling and riding skills in a curriculum designed to encourage the girls to overcome fears, understand assertiveness and embrace new adventures. Along the way, the girls learned to stand strong (pelvis neutral, baby!), explored the power of positive and negative thoughts and came to appreciate the ways a focused, calm and gentle approach to leadership can be extremely effective.

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