Betties at the Mazamas Learning Rock Climbing

“TAKE!” A girl squeaks, grasping the rock wall with all her might.

“You’ve got this Evelyn!” The woman shouts up, holding tightly onto the belay rope.

“No I don’t, no I don’t! I’m scared!” Evelyn shouts down, clinging to the wall, her eyes squeezed shut. It’s her very first time climbing a rock wall.

“Just three more moves and you’ll be at the top, you’re doing so great!” The belayer calls up.

“You’ve got this Evelyn! We believe in you!” The girls taking a break from climbing shout from below, huge smiles on their faces.

“I do!?” Calls Evelyn, looking down to the crowd, “Oh no! I shouldn’t have looked down!” She exclaims.

“Don’t look down, just look up!”

“Just look up,” she mumbles under her breath, she turns her gaze to the not-too distant ledge, a look of determination replacing her expression of fear. She takes a deep breath and then exclaims, “Climbing!”

“Climb on!” The belayer beams.

In three swift moves Evelyn has climbed up over the ledge and sits there, panting, “Oh hey Mr. Troll!” She smiles at the troll who marks the top of the rock wall, an inside joke amongst the climbers at Mazamas. She then directs her gaze downwards. “Guys… How… How do I get down!?” She panics for a moment, clinging tightly to the rope.

“Don’t worry Evelyn, I got you,” The woman belaying her smiles.

“You do!? Are you sure? It’s so high up! What if I fall?”

“You won’t, I have you. You can climb off the edge if that makes you feel more comfortable and start walking down.”

Evelyn takes a few deep breaths and then swings her foot over the edge, catching it on a rock wall hold, she then pushes herself down so that her hands find another hold before she works up the courage to take her hands off the wall, lean back, and then walk down.

As soon as Evelyn’s feet his the ground, her friend Wren, who has been watching her the entire time runs towards her and wraps her up in one of the tightest hugs I have ever witnessed.

“You did it, I’m so proud of you,” Wren says, taking a moment before letting her go.  Evelyn is shaking from the adrenaline, “Take a few breaths,” Wren says, patting her shoulder, “Feel proud of yourself, you just did that, you’re awesome.”

I smile and capture a couple pictures before turning to the next girl scrambling up a wall, proud to have witnessed another magical Betties moment.

Note: Evelyn and Wren are real girls and this is a real moment that happened during our Mazamas trip their names have been changed in this story.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360 

The Elements of Betties: Meet “D”

D is water. D rolls over rocks and slides down mountainsides, she is fluid and necessary, and thoughtful.

D laughs like a babbling brook, her eyes are full of emotions, and her smile is filled with charm.

D only comes to class occasionally, because sometimes she has to go home to be with her father. They have a close relationship, and Betties tends to happen on the days her father has off. You know her father works immensely hard to take care of her. 

You relate to D because she makes herself relatable.

D is adaptable, she changes easily to conform to the situation. She makes room for everyone. However, she’ll call you out if you say anything unkind to someone she cares about.

If D was a body of water she would be a hot spring, you know this because of the warmth she gives her friends.

D is only 13 years old, yet you’re able to have honest conversations with her. She already has a grasp on how the world works and what it means to be truly kind to people.

D has told you, “I don’t date because I don’t have time for that, I have school work to do.” You laugh.

D is a Betty. She is compassionate, she cares deeply, and she wants to do right by her friends.

D struggles sometimes with the activities, but she never throws tantrums or pouts when she’s having a hard time.

Instead, she laughs when she falls and gets right back up again. She shrugs her shoulders if she doesn’t always do well at an activity, figuring there will be another one she might like better.

D is water.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360 

The Elements of Betties: Meet “M”

M is earth. M is solid, reliable, and kind. M’s eyes sparkle when she’s thought of a new idea. Her feet are always planted firmly on the ground; her head is always in the right place.

M wants to do well in school. M wants to go to college. She tries not to involve herself in drama, because she thinks it distracts from her studies.

M had a hard time making new friends when you met her, she had trust issues, she did not think she could be friends with the other girls because that had hurt her in the past. M stayed with Betties though because she thought it was a great opportunity, and saw the value of being in a space for young women only…Even though she struggled to belong in the group.

This year M is an 8th grader, and you’ve never seen her shine brighter. She has made friends easily, and she has forgiven the people who hurt her in the 6th grade. You see her flit between the different girl cliques at school, and she continues to stay out of the drama and participate in class. You wonder if Betties helped her to forgive her classmates and learn how to make new friends.

M still has a hard time learning to trust new people, and she has an even harder time trusting her body to learn new things. You can’t blame her, you know she was bullied most of her childhood.

M is a Betty. She’s always cautious when she is learning a new activity. You know she’s scared to fall. However, she always pushes through and takes things in stride. You know that at the end of the skateboarding lesson she’ll let go of the wall. You know that at the end of rock climbing she’ll have made her way to the top. You know that during roller-skating she’ll stand up and do one lap around the track. It just takes her time to build confidence.

Maybe someday she’ll have the confidence to immediately let go, but it’s not right now, and that is ok.

M is earth.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360 

The Elements of Betties: Meet “G”

G is fire. G is the most passionate, the most fierce, the most (outwardly) confident young woman I have ever worked with. G is a natural leader. G will stick by you and defend you, so long as you’re a true friend who won’t talk behind her back.

G knows who her true friends are.

G is also one of the most headstrong, most frustrating young woman I have ever worked with.

She sends you on an emotional roller coaster. You want to protect her and shield her from the struggles she faces constantly, you want to tell her it’s ok to still be a child.

You also realize that she is already grown up in so many ways. She had to grow up early to learn how to defend herself. She has far surpassed your capabilities of understanding the world and how it works when you were her age.

G is smart. When she does well in school she does really well. You think G could go to college if she really wanted to; you’re worried she might not.

That’s not what’s modeled for her at home.

G can bring a group together and tear a group apart. She knows how to guide her fellow classmates to focus and respect the person in charge. She also knows she has the power to turn them away from you. She can create order and chaos.

You want G on your side if you’re going to get anything done.

G climbs to the top of the rock wall up the hardest path, learns skateboard tricks with ease, and can pick up any dance routine.

G is a Betty. She does whatever she sets her mind to, she is not scared to try new things, and she is a deeply caring friend. She’s working hard to overcome the challenges life has presented her, sometimes she slips and reacts in a way that is easy for her, but other moments she shines and sparkles, and lets the world know that she means business.

G is fire.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360 

A Story of Resilience and Determination

Zoom! A girl skated by me, her arms stretched out like an eagle, a triumphant smile on her face. To the left of me another girl flipped over her board with her feet, jumped, and landed perfectly balanced on the skateboard. A minute later a third girl skated by and exclaimed, “I love going fast!” Her hijab flapped behind her in the wind created by her speed.

My face hurt from smiling. These young women were doing so well. I couldn’t even tell that twenty minutes ago most of them had never ridden a skateboard.

A moment later I heard a crash and saw a girl tumble. As a person trusted with the safety of these young women, momentary panic set in. I started to move towards the girl to make sure she was okay, but saw all the other young women had jumped off their boards and were running towards her.

“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” they asked, helping her to her feet.

“I’m fine – I just got my wheel caught on a rock,” she exclaimed, dusting herself off.

“Do you want to go sit for a while? Take a break?” The other girls asked, looking genuinely concerned.

“No, let’s go skate over there,” she beamed, hopping back on her board.

I felt my heart swell with pride. In my experience as an educator, I had never seen a group of middle school aged children show such genuine concern for another peer, let alone offer to sacrifice the good time they were having in favor of making sure their friend was alright.

I also felt pride because the girl who had fallen jumped back on her board, completely unafraid to fall again.

Three more young women would fall throughout the class, including myself. Each time every girl would hop off her board, rush over to check on their friend, and then encourage one another to give it another try. While I was impressed with how easily they picked up the sport, I was even more impressed by the support they showed one another.

Middle school is a confusing time—it’s a time when girls begin to process messages spread by the media that women are shallow, careless, and unsupportive of one another. More often than not middle school girls view their peers as people who will tear them down instead of lift them up. What I saw this day impressed me beyond words, because already I was seeing what I was hoping to help create: a space for girls to lift one another up, to support one another, to try new things, and to feel invincible.

I think this is the true magic of Betties360.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360