Anchorage GRIT (Girls Riding Into Tomorrow) is a middle school bicycle mentorship program for 7th grade girls in Anchorage, AK.

GRIT aims to empower young women to safely and confidently ride bicycles in Anchorage and prepares them for a self-supported overnight bike adventure. The program features both vertical and horizontal support networks via a mentorship and bike-buddy pairing. The capstone project is a three day ride on bike paths and gravel roads from Anchorage to the Serenity Falls Cabin at the end of Eklutna Lake.

Five women from the community will mentor students from Begich Middle School and Steller Secondary School. Each school has selected five 7th grade students to achieve a 2-1 student-mentor ratio, and each mentor will partner with one student from each school. These students were nominated by their teachers and counselors to participate in this fun and challenging program.

The Anchorage GRIT program consists of multiple after-school sessions; each session will include a ride to either a lesson or a volunteering opportunity. Lessons in safe riding, route planning, bicycle maintenance, bag making, bikepacking, stretching and fitness, and mountain bike skills will be taught by expert women in the Anchorage community. The students will also volunteer at Off The Chain Bicycle Coop, the Alaska Botanical Garden, and Anchorage Parks and Recreation. Combined, these activities seek to empower each student to interact with Anchorage’s diverse community through the unique lens of the bicycle. All of the lessons and rides are intended to prepare the students for the final camp-out; to instill the confidence to safely commute around Anchorage; and expose them to new ideas and experiences.

Reflecting on our school years, we find middle school to be a pivotal age for development. GRIT was conceived for the simple reason that we would have loved this kind of opportunity when we were young. We are excited to volunteer our time and energy to ensure the program is a success.

With donations from Specialized, The Bicycle Shop, Revelate Designs, GU Energy and Bike Anchorage, we are able to provide an entry level mountain bike, helmet, rack, a set of panniers, and a lock for each student. After successfully completing the six week program, the students will earn their bikes and equipment. Additional camping gear, including sleeping bags and tents, were donated by Kelty and Slumberjack.

In the first year of Anchorage GRIT, we are writing a curriculum and recording our experience with lesson plans, volunteering opportunities, and rides. Our intention is to openly share this information so that women in other cities can translate GRIT to their own communities. We would love to see GRIT grow– both in Anchorage and around the country.

We are seeking additional financial support for Anchorage GRIT this season to cover expenses including cabin rental, racks, locks, water bottle cages, and food.