The Women's Wilderness Institute

Girls today continue to be bombarded with images of what they "should" look, be, and act like. Getting outside in an all-female environment gives pre-teen and teen girls the opportunity to challenge themselves in a supportive environment. Our backpacking and rock climbing courses for girls result in increased self-esteem, healthier body image, and greater leadership skills. Support our scholarship fund for girls who would otherwise not have access to this kind of life-changing opportunity!

Organizational Overview

The Women's Wilderness Institute
PO Box 20543
Boulder, CO 80308
The Women's Wilderness Institute is a nonprofit organization with the mission of strengthening the courage, confidence, and leadership qualities of girls and women, through the challenge and support of group wilderness and community-based experiences.

The Girls' Wilderness Program is an innovative strengthening and prevention program designed to develop the self-efficacy, self-confidence, leadership skills, and capacity for authentic relationships that have been shown to be significant protective factors for girls.


Women's Wilderness has a new logo, new fall 2015 courses, and we are working on a new webpage!

Additionally...Women's Wilderness has hired a new Executive Director, Emily Isaacs. Emily has worked for 2 years with Women's Wilderness as an instructor and staff trainer.

Starting in fall of 2015 and into 2016, Women's Wilderness is launching a number of new programs. These will include a program supporting queer and questioning teens and a pilot program partnering with Intercambio, a non-profit that provides support to the local immigrant population.

Impact Statement

Since 1998, over 4,600women and girls have participated in our wilderness-based programs, throughout the Rocky Mountain region and southwestern deserts.

The effectiveness of the Girls' Wilderness Program has been confirmed by three different outcome studies, done by independent researchers. A 1999 study found that eight-day course graduates showed significant positive changes in self-confidence, self-esteem, and the ability to initiate action . Another study in 2001 replicated those results, and also found a positive increase in body image and body acceptance . Self-reporting indicated that course graduates do significantly better in school; this finding was confirmed with a 2003 study on whether a Girls' Wilderness Course has an impact on academic attitudes. This study found significant increases in participants' perception of their academic competence, as well as positive changes in perceived self-worth .

The immersion experience of an extended wilderness expedition engages girls on the physical, creative, and relational levels. In the outdoors, numerous 'real-life' opportunities exist for girls to experience themselves as strong, capable, and connected to others. The activities of camping, backpacking, rock climbing, expressive art projects, team building initiatives, and group discussions are used to develop courage, confidence, and leadership through the mastery of new physical and relational skills. Girls who struggle with the more abstract challenges of their lives are able to have successful experiences of mastery and positive coping through the supported and gradual exposure to challenging but do-able tasks. The wilderness provides an excellent vehicle for what author and researcher JoAnn Deak calls 'against the grain learning', which for girls includes activities that are physical, that require spatial orientation and concrete problem solving, and include successful risk-taking experiences .

Research-based curriculum is designed to help girls develop the self-awareness, self-expression, and authentic relationships that are proven resilience factors . Girls are supported in expressing themselves even if that means holding on to a personal perspective that is different from those of their peers or even the group leaders. For girls, this ability to risk and resolve personal conflict is a significant developmental step towards authentic relationships.

The Girls' Wilderness Program uses an original model of teaching decision-making, designed to build self-awareness, critical thinking skills, and the ability to make self-affirming choices. The 'Conscious Choice' model uses the many choice-points of a wilderness expedition to give girls the skills and self-awareness to make choices that are in their own best interest, and based on their personal beliefs and values rather than the expectations of others or impulsive decisions. This awareness, and ability to express, personal values and needs is directly related to girls' ability to make positive choices regarding drugs, alcohol, sex, and other peer pressures.

In 2015 we received government funding for 3 different retreats for the Women Veterans program.

Needs Statement

1) Our primary need in this challenging economy is for financial support. Our Girls' Wilderness Program is available to all girls, regardless of their family income, and to offer scholarships to girls in need we rely on the generosity of individual donors, foundations, and revenue generated from Custom Courses. 40% of our program and operating expenses come from individuals, events, and local businesses.

2) Volunteers. We currently need help with IT support, PR and website development. We always need help with general office support and course logistics. In 2015 and 16 we will be expanding opportunities for experienced volunteers to go into the wilderness with girls. This area will require a background check and references in order to participate as a volunteer.

Background Statement

The Women's Wilderness Institute was established in 1997, and began offering leadership programs for girls in 1998. Wilderness programs for women were introduced in 1999. The Institute has since grown to offer as many as 60 courses annually, including open enrollment courses for the general public and contract courses for partners including Girl Scouts, Naropa University, Mile Hi Church, the Army National Guard, and dozens of other organizations.

In 2008, the Women's Wilderness Institute received full accreditation from the Association for Experiential Education which means that we have met the safety, program quality, and risk management standards and practices of outdoor, experiential education.

In 2015, our focus is on spreading the word and reaching out to more communities in the Front Range. We are running new fall programs, including a Girls Alumni Climbing Day and a Queer Youth support group.

Executive Director Statement

As a supporter of The Women's Wilderness Institute, you know that one of the greatest gifts you can make is to give girls of all income levels the courage to speak their truth, to move with confidence, and to be visible and authentic. You understand the connection between strong girls, strong women, and a better world. You understand that a true democracy in which women lead side by side with men, in equal numbers.

For seventeen years, The Women's Wilderness Institute has been working to strengthen the courage, confidence and leadership skills in girls and women. Hundreds of graduates of the Girls' Wilderness Program are now young women with the skills and confidence to step into leadership positions, bringing forth their natural instincts for peace, social justice, and collaboration. Our research-proven girls' programs are continuing to help girls navigate the challenges of adolescence with the power of their own voices.

2015 has been a year of renewal. I have been hired as a new Executive Director, we developed a new logo and are working on a new webpage, and we are developing new courses for the fall of 2015 and 2016. We obtained a permit for Jefferson County and will now be able to run courses that are more accessible for people living in and near Denver.

We need your help. We need your help for the growing number of girls who come from families that cannot afford the kinds of life-changing experiences that the Girls' Wilderness Program provides. We need your help for The Women's Wilderness Institute to remain vital and viable through this challenging economic period. We need your help because The Women's Wilderness Institute is providing a root solution to so many of the complex issues our world faces today- from teenage pregnancy to the misuse and misunderstanding of power that is rampant on the personal and the global scale.

These days, as you reflect on what is important to you, and how you can contribute to the world, please remember to include The Women's Wilderness Institute in your year-end giving. Building strong girls and women is an investment that cannot wait. With your help, we will continue our seventeen-year track record of making the Girls' Wilderness Program accessible to girls of all economic backgrounds. Please consider making a 'stretch' donation this year that will allow TWWI to continue to thrive.

Thank you for your support!

S'mores and shooting stars,

Emily Isaacs
Executive Director

Board Chair/President Statement

The Women's Wilderness Institute is committed to maintaining its reputation as one of the premier outdoor education centers for girls and women in the US. With our empowering philosophy of Conscious Choice- utilizing the many choice points of a wilderness expedition to build self-sufficiency, confidence, and personal strength- we will be nationally recognized as a leader in the industry. Our goal is to expand our programs so that even more girls and women have a chance to find their inner strengths, live their dreams, and make this world a strong, vibrant, thriving place.

"I think I really found courage in myself that I never knew I had. I have learned to speak my mind, and not hold back because I might sound stupid. This experience has brought out the best in me."
-Sarah, age 15, Girls' Wilderness Program participant

Women's Wilderness Institute is a nonprofit organization with the mission of strengthening the courage, confidence, and leadership qualities of girls and women, through the challenge and support of group wilderness and community-based experiences.
Key aspects of this profile information have been reviewed by Community First Foundation staff. Each organization is exclusively responsible for the content that appears on the profile page. Community First Foundation offers general guidance as to the purpose of each area but does not require or encourage charities to include anything in particular in each section.

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