Girls Leadership Institute: The Summer That Changed Me

A-woo, GLI, that is my heart’s desire! A-woo, GLI, I love it, I love it, I love it!

So goes the celebratory chant of the Girls Leadership Institute. For three weeks over the summer of 2011, GLI was my camp. For the rest of my life, it will be one of my fondest memories.

I did not want to go, for no other reason then I felt lazy and the idea of an all-girls camp seemed silly to me. I’m a feminist, but I feel no need to seek out sisterhood. Reluctantly, I packed my bags and arrived at Smith College.

Every day and every night, something happens at GLI. I can’t think of a single moment I was bored there. Between the projects, the impromptu Bananagrams, and legitimate adventures like rope climbing, there isn’t enough time for boredom.

Another daily part of GLI is workshop. Workshop is the “school” of GLI, if school taught with skits and bubble paints and handed out life lessons instead of trig problems. I was not the most open person to the idea of sharing feelings. I’ve always been closed off from my emotional side. GLI taught me when and how to use my feelings. Very rarely do we get the chance to genuinely discuss how we really feel and what that means, but GLI teaches you those rare things. Like most rare things, its value is immeasurable.

There are several projects and intensives each year at GLI, and I took a theatre class and a poetry and movement class. I’ve always loved writing, and this gave me a chance to experiment and learn from truly amazing teachers. This was the first place I preformed my pieces in public. The amount of confidence that comes from sharing the words you love with people you love is incomparable. Sharing my writing has become part of my life and my relationships, creating some deep bonds.

The teachers, by the way, are the most amazing women in the world. Seriously, I think I talked to all of them at least once, and I felt comfortable with all of them. My fellow campers were equally impressive. The pure love could be felt every step of the way. My grandmother died while I was at camp, and the support was unparalleled. I will never forget that. I still keep in touch with the counselors and campers. Always, the support remains. We talk about our latest projects and remember our adventures and the spirit lives on. I know that as long as I can find my way to the GLI group, I can find my way to amazing, interesting, inspiring, fierce, fabulous females.

Sometimes, I’ll stop and think “They would be so proud.” When I’m confronting a friend without exploding, or sharing how I feel with a significant other, I know that this skill is one of the most important tools that I have. Being able to realize that I’m not just angry, but also hurt, has helped me identify and deal with issues that I’ve had with the people I love.

I haven’t mentioned everything. I wouldn’t dare to try to do that. It’s better to find out on your own. GLI has something for everyone, from the freaky artist to the infamous good girl. If you have a goal, this is the place to realize it.

A-woo, GLI, that is my heart’s desire! A-woo, GLI, I love it, I love it, I love it!

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Heidi L
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