Girl Ventures
When most people experience the vastness of the outdoors for the first time, it can be scary and overwhelming, and awaken feelings of vulnerability

But for Cori Coccia, as an 11-year-old sitting amid the silent, sandy hills and colorful blooms of desert wildflowers in the Anza-Borrego State Park in Southern California, she felt a sense of safety that she’d never felt in everyday society before. She felt alive. She felt a rush of energy and vitality. She was blanketed in a feeling of purity.

Program Director, Cori, makes her way to the group huddle.

Growing up in a financially challenged single parent household where she was surrounded by kids that had access to seemingly anything they wanted, Cori didn’t feel like she fit in. But nature was a place where she could find refuge, and a connection to something that was bigger than herself. Her mom felt the same way, and family getaways were almost always camping trips. As Cori got older, her need for the outdoors only became stronger and she studied Social and Behavioral Science, Wilderness Leadership, Non-Profit Administration, and Outdoor Program Leadership at San Francisco State before going on to get her MS in Environmental Education. In this program, she lived outdoors on a renovated school bus for two years, traveling through North America and abroad learning directly from local communities and the land itself. In 2003, she joined GirlVentures, which spoke directly to her mission of helping others find peace, clarity, and empowerment in the outdoors.

GirlVentures was founded by two Bay Area women who met while studying the transition from childhood to adolescence among girls and the emotional, physical and social challenges they are faced with. They found that outdoor education fosters the empowering qualities girls need to face the challenges that come with teenage years.

Today, as Program Director, Cori leads groups of girls into places like Joshua Tree National Park for multi-day immersive adventures designed to help them “live healthy, relate wisely, and lead confidently.”

Being in nature, I feel connected to something bigger than myself.”

Cori Coccia, Program Director at GirlVentures
Cori and GirlVentures participants share a moment of joy.

The impact of GirlVentures’ programming is undeniable. In fact, 93% of girls who participate in a trip say they are more confident to be themselves regardless of what others think. That sense of empowerment comes at an important time when many girls feel self-conscious about everything – their bodies, their potential, even their general place in society.

GirlVentures’ curriculum is designed to provide a catalyst for positive personal change. That means helping the girls learn their own truths, shatter their own perceived “glass ceilings,” relate to and connect with new people, and at the end of the day, lift each other up. The girls take these skills and self-discoveries back home with them where they live more confidently, have stronger voices, and build healthy relationships.

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Being a teen is hard enough, but being a confident teen girl in today’s society often feels impossible with social media, reality TV, beauty magazines, and everything Photoshopped. Young girls are feeling worse about themselves now than ever before. According to the Dove Self-Esteem Project, 6 out of 10 girls feel so bad about the way the look, they opt out of important activities. The young women that head into the wilderness with GirlVentures come from all different types of backgrounds, but all are looking for the same things – a boost of empowerment and a reminder that there are communities to turn to for support.

The power of spending a few days in nature exploring self, community, culture, health, and environment to nurture self-esteem and resilience shows in the photos. Scroll through using the arrows to take a look at our time in Joshua Tree.

Scroll through using the arrows to take a look at our time in Joshua Tree.

I learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was. I’ve been less exhausted because I’m not trying to be someone else constantly.”

Mielle, 14, GirlVentures Participant

The girls spend their days backpacking, hiking, rock climbing, bonding over specially-created self-exploration activities, answering thought-provoking prompt questions, and making new friends. All under Cori’s careful guide and mentorship.

Some of the activities, like a scenic hike through the desert, come easily. Others offer unique challenges, mentally and physically. But no matter what, there exists a spirit of support, encouragement and love for every girl, just as she is.

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The exercises in trusting oneself and others culminate in what some girls never thought they could attempt, let alone complete – a blindfolded climb. This is when one girl is secured to a rope, blindfolded, and relies on the other girls to coach and encourage her up the wall. It’s the ultimate test of trust, and for many girls, a breakthrough in confidence.

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You don’t have to go to Joshua Tree to experience the power of a GirlVentures excursion. Gather a few friends, find a peaceful outdoor space, and have your own mini adventure. Below are some ideas that make up a GirlVentures trip. Let them inspire your own adventure!

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GirlVentures empowers adolescent girls to develop and express their strengths through outdoor adventures. Help them make a difference in someone’s life.

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