Desert View Watch Tower, Grand Canyon, AZ, photo taken by Lauren Gurney on her journey out West.


Past Journeys

> April's Journey to California
Leah's Life Changing Journey
Shari's Journey to a New Career
> Jenna Bikes Across the Country
> Dance Teacher Jennifer Trowbridge
> Lauren's Journey to the Mid West


April's Journey to California

April Thorndike received a Journeys for Women grant which allowed her to support her daughter, Brianna, in the GEAR UP Youth Leadership Summit, and to see San Francisco for the first time!

Brianna, and thirty of her peers from across the country, were selected to participate in the Youth Leadership Conference (YLS) which took place at the national GEAR UP Annual Conference in San Francisco, California this July. GEAR UP programs work with economically disadvantaged middle school and high school students to ensure that they are academically and socially prepared for postsecondary education. The students' mission at YLS was to identify issues in their schools that prevent many students from going on to higher education, and to propose solutions for these barriers. Their findings and ideas were compiled in a written report and presented to the two-thousand conference participants in a well-planned skit. Brianna played the role of the "expert" in their talk-show format skit, and she even received a standing ovation! April said, "it was amazing to see the students and their presentation, and I was so proud of them – they're amazing kids."

April knew this would be an experience of a lifetime for her daughter, but leaving her job at the grocery store during their busiest season didn't seem possible. "When Brianna was awarded this, my first thought was, I can't go it's in July! It's our busiest time at work and then I thought, no, this is an experience that we could do together and just see something different than where we live. And to be honest, having the financial help that we had made it much easier, because I wouldn't have gone otherwise. So, I took the bull by the horns and just said let's go with it, just go, it doesn't matter if you're scared to fly, and it doesn't matter if you're not supposed to take vacation, just ask. So I went to my boss and I said this is the situation and he said you know there is an exception to every rule and we'll work it out – go for it."

She and her daughter both thought seeing Alcatraz was the best part of their trip, but they enjoyed the shopping and walking around the city too. By the end of their week-long trip, they were exhausted and ready to come home. When asked about her journey, she said, "The trip was an experience of a lifetime. I, like Brianna, have never traveled very far and I was scared to death to be on the plane, and I made it! I was so proud of myself and I think that was just something to prove to Brianna and my girls that – go ahead, I don't care how old you are, keep going, do something that you're scared to do and see what happens."

by Emily Liebling

Leah's Life Changing Journey

June 9, 2011

I had the opportunity to participate in "Journeys for Women", when my sister gave me a "gift Card" for Life coaching sessions. Over several phone sessions, my Journeys life coach, offered guidance and support, always allowing me to choose what issues I wanted to discuss. These sessions changed focus as my circumstances changed. I had been unemployed for a long period of time and I was really concerned, given the state of the economy and my age (54), that I may be unemployable.

Near the end of our phone sessions, "Journeys for Women" offered to help me with some classes. I took a Quickbooks class and a Phlebotomy class. About halfway through the second class, I was offered a full time temporary clerical position. About the same time, I was offered a part-time weekend position. I accepted both positions with the hope that one of the jobs will become a full time permanent position.

I went from no job to two jobs and two classes. I feel that when an opportunity is presented, and one commits to that opportunity, that other opportunities may also open up, and one has to be ready to take on that next opportunity.

I want to thank everyone from "Journeys for Women", for their time and support. Thank you for making me feel good about myself again.

- Leah

Shari's Journey to a New Career

Journeys for Women (JFW) provides learning, respite and/or revitalization for women by offering direction, advocacy and support for a woman to envision, plan and carry out a journey. A journey can mean many things and recipients have used support from JFW to support a broad range of experiences. One woman participated in the trip of a lifetime journeying throughout the Mid-West. Another biked across country, while another's journey included her students and community.

In the spring of 2011 Shari Tondreau decided to begin a new journey by reaching out to JFW for support in pursuing her dream of a new career. Shari, a dedicated mother, wished to return to college in order to increase her abilities to support her family during some very challenging times. Shari's young daughter, Sienna, was diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, or Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI). This rare disorder, caused by a genetic mutation in a protein that regulates electrical activity in the brain, causes individuals with SMEI to experience almost every type of seizure. Trying to care for her family, learn about Dravet Syndrome, and support her daughter's health took almost all of Shari's time, energy and focus. She knew she needed to reconnect with herself in order to maintain her strength and abilities to fully care for her family. It was then that she learned about JFW and the opportunities this organization supports.

Shari approached JFW and, although she knew her destination, she wasn't as clear on the best way to get there. She met with JFW members who both helped her clarify her goals and provided funding to support her first steps on this phase of her journey. Shari recently wrote to JFW to let her supporters know how the grant she received has supported her in making her dream a reality. Shari told JFW that this award allowed her to do something for herself. She explained that she had been so wrapped up with her daughter's needs that she lost herself. Beginning this journey allowed her to try something new, and to be successful. This sense of empowerment has led her to become a more active and contributing member of the Dravet Community. Below is a note Shari thanking the JFW members for supporting her journey and a brief update on her progress!

I would like to thank Journeys for Women for helping me with the purchase of a laptop to assist me with my college courses. I reentered school at KVCC in the fall and enrolled in online courses as that seemed to be the route that would work best for me. Having a son in preschool going half days and a special needs daughter in kindergarten with her length of day varying this seemed to be the path that would work best. I took four classes in the business program to allow me to qualify for the best financial aid package offered through the school.
My first semester was quite successful, ending up with an A, A-, and a B+. I did have difficulty with one class, and finished with a D+. I was not pleased with this, but can say this is one of the hazards of online classes. The instructor gave assignments at the beginning of the course and when you go to take your final at school, you turn in all of your work. There was absolutely no feedback, just a final grade. I have since spoken with the Dean and she has spoken with the instructor, and that grade has changed to an incomplete. I am going to meet with the instructor and do some additional work for him.

I am feeling good that I have been able to manage my classes while juggling a busy family schedule. I have just started the spring semester, again taking online classes. We just had my daughter's IEP, and we are planning for a full day, repeating kindergarten next year. When both kids are in school full time, I may be able to take some onsite courses. Thanks so much for your support.

-Shari Tondreau

We would like to thank Shari for letting us be a part of this dream. If you, or a women you know could benefit from the support of JFW or if you would like more information, please visit our website or contact Corda at

Jenna Bikes Across the Country
Summer 2011

Jenna in Montana

This is Jenna on her journey across the country. Jenna received a grant from JFW to support her journey. She is just about half way in South Dakota right now. We wish you safe pedaling, Jenna!

Dance Teacher Jennifer Trowbridge's Journey

A dance instructor in Blue Hill, Maine, Jennifer is able to bring in New York Dancer/Choreographer Christopher Grant for a series of lessons in May of 2011

About Jennifer:

Every Journey starts with the first step.  Along the way we find special places to stop and look and listen to interior and exterior landscapes and marvel at the wonders of the natural world.

Back in 1970, I made a conscious decision to turn the direction of my journey from studying physics to practicing dance and the creative arts. I have been a dance teacher since graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1972.  I taught dance at the University of Maine, Orono from 1976 to 1984 and performed with the university dance company and performed solo concerts during this time.  I also was the director of The Evelyn de LaTour Dance Center in Sedgwick, ME from 1975 – 1985.  I have a M.Ed. in Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University and presently teach dance at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine. 

Over the course of my lifetime, I have studied and worked with many professional dancers. Master classes that have had a particular influence on my teaching include: choreography with Murray Louis and Alwin Nikolais; authentic movement with Andrea Olsen; group choreography and movement exploration with Alison Chase and Jonathan Wolken of Pilobolus Dance Theatre, Daniel Nagrin, and Cliff Keuter, and drama, mime and storytelling with Tony Montenaro and Benny Reehl.

Professors that have had a particular influence on my teaching include: sculpture with Leonard de Longa, modern dance with Helen Rogers, and ballet with Rosalind Pierson at Mount Holyoke College, choreography with Moira Logan at Memphis State University, teaching methods with Lesley College creative arts in learning faculty, elementary education and childhood with Eugene Schwartz of Sunbridge College, and “Knowledge of Higher Worlds” with Torin M. Finser from the Center for Anthroposophy.

Every time I have worked with other creative artists, I have been inspired and grown as a person and as a teacher.

Syntiro’s JOURNEYS FOR WOMEN program crossed my consciousness at a time when I was evaluating my need to learn more about the new generation of student dancers I teach and to revitalize myself as a creative and exploring artistic teacher. The journey I have planned is for me, for high school dancers, for children, and for my community. 

My journey/dream is to find funding to help pay for these students to join an extra-curricular dance company that can devote sufficient time to creating and rehearsing authentic dances that express young dancers’ inner-artistic lives, and to pay a guest artist to work with me and them in my studios to create professional level dance performances.

What I hope to learn and demonstrate is that my students and I have the ability to perform at a professional level and not just at an introductory one-semester, class-level. This opportunity would revitalize my courage and knowledge that this level of excellence is still possible in my life.  Collaborating with other dancers and choreographers had always been a large part of my artistic life, but I feel like I have been out of touch with other performing dance artists for the last six years, although I do take dance classes in NYC annually when I visit.

Part of the reason I felt the need for revitalization is that six years ago I went through radiation therapy and surgery that basically took a year out of my dancing life.  I spent the next year, rehabbing my dancing body, and at the end of that time I felt ready to dance and was elated to learn that our local high school was looking for a dance teacher.  For the last four years, I have joyfully been working with high school students teaching an introduction to dance class.  Students learn and practice dance technique, choreography, some dance history, and for two of those four years, they have also risen to the challenge to perform in our school’s annual Arts Festival.  All of this happens during a one-semester course.  The student performance is a highlight, but it never receives the amount of rehearsal time it deserves. 

One of my goals is to bring guest choreographers to us, and I need help funding such a dream.  Syntiro’s Journey for Women has assisted me in developing and realizing the beginnings of this rewarding experience.

The Dream Journey:

The work that happened May 13th – 20th, 2011, with Christopher Grant and myself and my students and the George Stevens Academy Arts Festival and the community at large, was an awesome week for ALL of us, and I am so grateful to Syntiro for helping to make this learning and revitalizing experience happen.  Without Syntiro’s funding, I would not have been able to bring New York dancer, Chris Grant, to George Stevens Academy, the Sedgwick Dance Studio, and Blue Hill Consolidated Elementary School to teach a week-long series of hip hop dance classes.  Chris is a professional artist and an excellent teacher in every respect.  He brings his performing experiences with Alison Chase Performance group and Pilobolus Dance Theatre, and his expressive energy to the classroom.

I took every one of Chris's classes (eight in all) and enjoyed working in a genre that I have not practiced before.  He coached my dance class of eleven students before their Arts Festival performance and shared some invaluable performing tips that the dancers took to heart and used to energize their presentation.  He taught about 25 people in classes we offered to the community at large and he taught an eighth grade workshop and a fifth grade workshop at Blue Hill Consolidated School on Wednesday May 18th (in which I did not participate).  He even partnered with me in a waltz class and a swing class given by Chuck McKay.  He truly served as a great role model for the young men in our school and the boys at the elementary school.

On Tuesday May 17th, Chris Grant was able to perform for George Stevens Academy and many local residents who came for the performance with  Paul Sullivan & with Alison Chase Performance dancer Mark Fucik, who came up from New York City, to share the duet, "Ben's Admonition" music by Paul Sullivan.  (I've included photos of the duet.)

My husband and I hosted Chris the week he was in residence at George Stevens Academy, so I had ample opportunity to talk shop with him, and both Chris and I benefited from our dance conversations.  It felt like a learning experience for both of us, and I am looking forward to working with Chris Grant in the future.

Thank you for enabling me to take the first step on a new journey in my future teaching and performing career.


Lauren's Journey

Lauren Gurney was given a Journeys for Women grant in 2006 to travel out West. Below is her account of the journey she took.

Lauren out West

I have been on a life-changing journey since February 2006, although my literal journey to Nevada didn't take place until October. In the meantime, on two online forums, I had shared jokes, life stories and experiences, tears, hopes, and love with thousands of people from around the world who began journeys of their own due to the same impetus, a little movie called Brokeback Mountain. I have questioned and re-examined long-held beliefs, both political and religious. I have glimpsed the future that I was heading toward and, deciding that it was not what I wanted, have begun to make the adjustments in my course that will take me to a different place that I find much more appealing.

The cost of my trip was very small because I was visiting a friend, and the amount of money I received from Journeys for Women was not huge, but the meaning behind it was and that was of the greatest importance to me. Once I had decided to make the trip to Nevada I also decided that I wanted to come home with a ring, something that I would wear all the time that would remind me of my friend, our road trip, and my journey. I found what I was looking for in the little Mormon town of Kanob, Utah, and it serves as a daily reminder of all that is happening in my life, just as I had hoped that it would. I had pretty much planned to spend the Journeys money on the ring, but I actually came home with cash in my pocket that almost exactly equaled the Journeys for Women contribution.

I left the money sitting in my desk drawer assuming that at some point I would see a clear use for it that would fit in with everything else that has happened. This morning that connection became clear to me.

A young Christian woman who was a friend of my son's when they were both very young had written to me several weeks previously to tell me that she is one of a group from her church who is trying to raise the money to pay her way to Misungwi, Tanzania, to assist in the building of an orphanage dormitory.

I decided to pass my Journeys for Women money on to her to help her on her own journey of volunteerism and personal growth, seeing in my action a possible ripple effect that has the potential to change lives in another part of our world. (I received a message in a Christmas card from her family that the plane tickets have been purchased. She's on her way!)