Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Intern aims to connect more girls, volunteers to the outdoors

Please give a warm Girl Scout welcome to Ariel Barasch, our council’s new Curriculum and Training Intern.

Ariel's role is to help GSWPA staff enhance outdoor and conservation activities for girls and volunteers, organize local service opportunities for family and community members, and assist in increasing girl participation levels and volunteer confidence in the outdoors.

Ariel was born in Connecticut, spent her young childhood in New Jersey, and graduated from high school in Birmingham, Alabama. She is a December 2015 graduate of Auburn University, where she earned two degrees: a B.S. in Natural Resources Management and a B.A. in English.

Ariel is no stranger to outdoor adventures. She loves to hike, ski, kayak, canoe and camp. She’s a world-traveler, too, having trekked through most of Europe, much of Central America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Ariel’s passion for exploring the outdoors was sparked in fifth grade during a five-day school trip to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, an educational center that provides hands-on learning experiences in the National Park. “I thought what they did there was so incredibly cool,” Ariel said. “I went back to summer camp there every year I could.”

During her internship at GSWPA, she hopes to inspire girls and volunteers to love the outdoors, too. Luckily, western Pennsylvania provides plenty of destinations.

“One of the great things about this region is that you’re never very far from a state park,” she said.

Ariel added that while proximity isn’t a barrier, lack of familiarity prevents many people from enjoying the outdoors. Her job is to help volunteers and girls build confidence gradually.

“It’s like a staircase,” Ariel said. “You build higher-level skills and gain confidence, one step at a time.”

Research shows that outdoor experiences benefit Girl Scouts and are a key driver of leadership. Nonetheless, nearly 60 percent of girls are not getting frequent contact with the outdoors in Girl Scouts.

Ariel hopes to change that by creating outdoors-based programs that encourage girls and volunteers to try outdoor activities more often.

“Educating volunteers is vital to helping girls,” she said.

Ariel’s intern position is the first of its kind at GSWPA. It’s part of a collaboration between GSUSA and the Student Conservation Association (SCA) that is funded by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. This pilot program include five councils: GSWPA, Girl Scouts of Alaska, Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Girl Scouts of Greater New York, and Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. Visit for more information.