So much is happening at Betties360! For the first time ever, we offered both virtual and summer programming. One of our program coordinators, Arcadia Trueheart wrote about what it has been like to deliver on our mission amidst unprecedented circumstances of our time:
“Last year, I could not have imagined Betties360 without frequent trips to the Mazamas rock gym, hikes all over the Pacific Northwest, gathering around shared art projects, feasting on healthy snacks, and sleeping in one big yurt. There is a lot that I could not have imagined a year ago. Like many people, I have been frightened and angered by the reality of living in a pandemic.
Working at Betties360, I have also been nurtured and inspired by the resiliency of the girls, our organization, and the schools and partner organizations we work with. Within a few weeks of schools closing in March, we had shifted our after-school program to be fully virtual. My passion for providing a steady and supportive community for middle school girls only grew with the rupture of human connection and stability in our world. The chance to meet weekly over video calls with the same group we’d been working with all year gave me a sense of continuity and reassurance.
Program Coordinator, Arcadia Trueheart
Our relationship as instructors and kids in an after-school setting shifted as we all became humans sharing our experiences in an unprecedented time. Through the video call, we saw into each others’ homes, showed off our pets, introduced younger siblings, and gave little tours of the view from our windows. A sense of closeness and solidarity grew in a way that had not been possible or imagined before. The focus of our work moved from encouraging girls to take healthy adventure risks to forming a space of reflection and refuge from the risks that we were all experiencing just by being alive. Between yoga and dance workouts, drawing exercises, and silly story games, we talked about loneliness, fear, racism, and the unknown. Throughout a changing pandemic, a major social movement for racial justice, giant forest fires, and a tense election season, we have met week-after-week to face this world together.
Columbia Slough Paddling Trip with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council
Because Betties360 had never offered summer classes or run a virtual program before this year, we as an organization have needed to get creative. Kelsey Ellis, our other program coordinator, and I invited guest speakers to teach the girls about local watersheds and native plants and put together a panel of fabulous female-identifying professionals to share stories and information about their careers. To expand our interactions beyond the screen, we sent letters to our girls and made hand deliveries of art supplies, journals, snacks, and fun little surprises.
During the summer we delivered tie-dye materials to all the participants and then tie-dyed t-shirts over a video call. To celebrate the ending of summer, we partnered with the Columbia Slough Watershed to host a free family paddle day for all the Betties families. The girls arrived with their families and each pod was able to experience the Columbia Slough in canoes and kayaks. It was such a joy to see everyone in person after months of video calls and to share a beautiful late-summer afternoon together.
With the beginning of the school year, we have a new group of students from St. Andrew’s Nativity School and are growing our Roseway Heights Middle School group from last year. We continue to meet weekly over video calls and are planning monthly in-person family events, including another paddle on the Columbia Slough, a hike in Forest Park led by high schoolers from Post 58, and an urban bike ride.
What this coming year will hold on a global level is unknown and daunting, but I take great comfort in knowing that Betties360 will be doing everything in our power to respond to the times and continue holding a place of solidarity and friendship for our Betties and their families.”
We are extremely proud and fortunate to have Arcadia and Kelsey, who thoughtfully responded to the complex health, environmental, and socio-political factors affecting our youth this past year.
One of our guiding principles at Betties360 is knowing what brings us together is our relationship with our community and environment. Despite the pandemic and the challenging socio-political climate, our work continues.
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