Stories from the Field

Reflections from the 2019 Armstrong Scholars

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One morning, the Armstrong Scholars awoke to mysterious sounds erupting from the forest. It was our ninth day on trail, and Lizzie and I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity for us to challenge the Scholars by going silent for 24 hours. The night before, we had asked the Scholars to reflect on the question "what do you stand for?"

The next day, each Scholar shared her mission statement, explained her perspective and instigated group discussions, all while hiking to our destination.  Throughout the day, Lizzie and I were inspired by our group's impassioned conversations and mature discourse. Not to mention, each girl took on all of our group responsibilities, as Lizzie and I transformed into silent participants!

The backcountry tested each one of us, physically, mentally and emotionally. We crossed through cold, fast flowing creeks, traversed over steep, snowy passes, braved a 45-minute thunderstorm and still maintained our optimism despite being surrounded by hundreds of mosquitos. While sporting disco shirts and head nets, the Armstrong scholars courageously traversed the Yosemite backcountry. Along the way, we deconstructed gender stereotypes and reclaimed our relationship to the Wilderness as Women.

When I think about the future of our planet, I remind myself that the future has strong leaders to guide us forward. I am incredibly proud and grateful to have gotten the chance to know 13 of them through the legacy and light of Joie Armstrong. Below are reflections—including “what I stand for” personal statements—from some of these 2019 Armstrong Scholars:

Ella from California

Ella in Yosemite July 2019.

I stand for Girl Empowerment. I stand for girls supporting girls. I stand for raising girls to be who they want to be and not how society wants them to be. I stand for giving opportunities to girls and not forming obstacles for them. I stand for inspiring bold girls, not compliant ones. 

Passion: I. Love. Reading!! Ireland is actually #1 on my bucket list of places to go because of its slightly overcast sweater weather that would be perfect to snuggle up with a good book and just read read read read (I know, super nerdy). 

Favorite trail meal: Asian Rice Noodles with Cashew Butter 

Words of wisdom: Don’t doubt yourself! It doesn’t benefit you and in the end you’ll realize that it was pointless to begin with. You are so much more capable than you believe yourself to be and that becomes evident on this Yosemite trip. Christopher Robin said it best, "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think." 

Grace of New Hampshire

Grace in Yosemite July 2019.

I stand for separation of church and state. Too often in politics today we see politicians using religion to their advantage to further their agendas.

Passion: A passion of mine is distance running. 

Favorite Trail Meal: Coconut curry! 

Words of wisdom: Get used to being around mosquitoes!

When I got back from the trip, I was repeatedly asked the same question by friends and family: What was your favorite part of the trip? And maybe they meant a specific time that I had a lot of fun, or a cool scenic view. But I always answered with this: the girls. My new friends. Sisters. Family. They were my favorite part of the trip. Without them, I don't know what I would have done. I find it so cool how we are from all over the country—from California to Michigan to North Carolina—and yet we connected so easily and so quickly. Hearing about different cultures, different traditions and different norms from varying regions was one of my favorite talking points. It is still weird to me to wake up without my best friends by my side. 

Elizabeth of North Carolina

I stand for family. As the second oldest of five girls, I can learn from my older sister’s experiences and also serve as an example to my younger sisters. However, family is not just a biological term. “Family,” in my eyes, is a group of people with whom you have a special bond and who you can count on. After an amazing backpacking trip through Yosemite, I have found a new Armstrong Family. Together, we have seen beautiful landscapes, hiked many miles and survived physical and emotional trails. My Armstrong family not only includes my wonderful leaders and other scholars, but the hundreds of other people that Joie has impacted. 

Passion: I love going to the gym, gardening and jigsaw puzzles!
Favorite trail meal: Chili! (and pineapple dump cake for dessert!)
Words of wisdom for aspiring Armstrong Scholars: Be true to yourself in your application and in life in general! Each Scholar is unique and has a special part in the group. Don’t worry if you have little to no backpacking experience (chances are, no one in the group does;) ) Also—make sure you bring a good bug net and waterproof boots! 

Shakira of California

Shakira in Yosemite July 2019.

I stand for learning the value of culture and heritage. Living in a country like America you encounter so many different people who come from so many different backgrounds. I believe that it is important to know where you come from and your family's history because it is a part of you.

It’s easy for things like traditions and languages to get lost through generations which is why it’s everyone's responsibility to keep them alive. As you embark on your journey of life remember that you are OUTSTANDING and unique. Who you are from your favorite movie to your background holds value and power, always. 

I love reading and listening to music in my free time. I’m from the one and only city of Los Angeles.

Being an Armstrong Scholar goes far beyond a two-week backpacking trip.

Being an Armstrong Scholar goes far beyond the realms of Yosemite's backcountry.

Being an Armstrong Scholar is a rare lifetime bond with Joie, nature and so much more.
Shakira, 2019 Armstrong Scholar

Olivia of California

Olivia in Yosemite July 2019.

I stand for accurate, inclusive and comprehensive sex-ed in schools. Information is empowering and I believe everyone should have access to relevant knowledge that can help them lead safe and enjoyable lives. 

Passion: I love studying insects, knitting and getting kids excited about the outdoors. 

Favorite trail meal: Falafel.  

Words of wisdom for aspiring Armstrong Scholars: It's okay to apply to Armstrong Scholars unsure of yourself and your abilities because you can do it, and your group will help you realize this and accomplish your goals. You are a lot stronger than you realize.  

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