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Bonus Episode: Developing Women Leaders
for Montana’s Future

The Red Ants Pants Foundation is accepting applications for its Girls Leadership Program beginning May 17!

Learn more and apply



Women's Foundation of Montana

Red Ants Pants Foundation and RAPF's Girls Leadership Program

Prospera Business Network and the Montana Women's Business Center

Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana


"Hi Reframing Rural listeners, we have our next sound-rich “Season Three” episode set in the tight-knit ranching community of Winnett, Montana coming out later this month. But in the meantime, I have a bonus episode to share with you from a webinar I moderated last summer for the Women’s Foundation of Montana. “Developing Leaders for Montana’s Future” was a virtual conversation about the landscape of women’s leadership in the state featuring leaders who’ve advanced opportunities for young rural women, Montana women business owners and students privileged to experience the perspective-shifting adventure of an international exchange.


This panel featured Deena Mansour, the Executive Director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana, Suzi Berget White, the former business development director of Prospera Business Network, home to the Montana Women’s Business Center, and Shannon Stober, founder of Jump Start Development and the lead facilitator of the Red Ants Pants Foundation’s Girls Leadership Program.


Developed to build upon the unique strength of girls from rural Montana, the Girls Leadership Program is a free leadership training that features three in-person retreats from October to April and coursework on communication, team building, emotional intelligence, project planning and management, along with conflict resolution and resiliency. The program culminates in community service projects centered on the girls’ interests and the needs’ of their hometowns.


Each year, the Girls Leadership Program is open to eight Montana girls who are entering into their junior year. Selected participants are then linked to their own dedicated mentor who helps them integrate their learnings throughout the program, and plan and execute their homegrown community projects. In the past, girls’ projects have included a new food pantry for the high school in Boulder, Montana, a 1.5 mile long walking trail in Ennis, and a photo project that captured rural Montana’s love for basketball while raising awareness for missing and murdered indigenous women.


I first learned of the Girls Leadership Program when I interviewed the founder of the Red Ants Pants company, foundation and music festival, Sarah Calhoun, for the first episode of Reframing Rural’s second season “Sowing Possibility.” In the episode, I shared how I wished this program was around when I was a girl struggling to figure out how I fit into my remote and sparsely populated community in Montana’s extreme northeast corner. I have, however, been fortunate to be involved in the program as an adult. For the last two groups of young women to go through the leadership program, I’ve been honored to facilitate an hour-long workshop exploring rural identity and common narratives on rural America.


With a mission to inspire hope for our youth, develop pride in our rural communities, and foster strength and courage in our leadership, this program has not only impacted the lives of its participants, mentors, facilitators and guest presenters like me, it’s changing how young women relate to their hometowns, while breaking down barriers and building upon the qualities that make rural places so special.


The application for the next Girls Leadership Program opens on Wednesday, May 17. The program is free and it is open to rising juniors across the whole wide state of Montana. I encourage you to visit to learn more and please share this opportunity with a girl you know who might benefit.


And now onto “Developing Leaders for Montana’s Future.” This conversation was recorded June 20, 2022 and as you’ll hear shortly, is introduced by Women’s Foundation of Montana, program officer, Kylie Gursky.


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