Skier. Athlete. Wife.

These were some of the identities members of the GMVS community shared during an event led by author, athlete and diversity trainer, Mirna Valerio. Valerio was the point person for a day of exploring how we match up the outer and inner versions of ourselves and how we present them in the world.

Valerio kicked off her time with GMVS sharing her unlikely rise from teacher to sponsored athlete. Her path to becoming an ultra runner started with a 2008 health scare. Her cardiologist told her in no uncertain terms that she had to take better care of herself or her life was at risk. Running had always been a passion of hers and that’s where she restarted her focus on getting healthy. She worked her way from 5ks to 50ks and started a blog “Fat Girl Running” to chart her progress. She reminded the GMVS crew that “You can do incredible things with your body” and not to take this for granted.

Thanks to her strong storytelling in both pictures and words, Valerio built a huge following on social media (check her out on instagram @themirnavator) and turned her passion project into a career. She now speaks about bringing diversity to outdoor sports and organizations. She has expanded her reach with high visibility contracts with brands like Leki, L.L.Bean, REI and most recently, Lululemon.

Originally from Brooklyn, Valerio now calls Montpelier, Vermont home. She’s well aware that as a plus-sized, Black Vermonter, she stands out when she’s hiking, biking and trail running. And she uses this to start conversations. Seeing a plus-sized Black athlete become the face of huge brands is a momentum shift and just might be the impetus for new young athletes to feel included and invited. She’s comfortable in her role as an ambassador for the outdoors and for outdoor athletes that have been ignored or underserved. “I appreciate life and the ability to move,” said Valerio, she’s one to see opportunity, not obstacles.

“We can choose to be stagnant, or we can live our lives to the fullest,” said Valerio. She led the Gumbies in conversations about identity and inclusiveness. As a mom and former teacher (she spent 18 years working in New England private schools), Valerio had ease talking with both young athletes and the professionals who coach them at GMVS. With characteristic charm, she quickly had the groups sharing how they defined themselves and diving into how identity shapes our world view.

Students reflected on what they learned from Valerio. “Don’t let negativity bring you down,” said one 10th grade student. Another chimed in, “Be aware of your privileges, don’t take them for granted.” A third shared that, “It’s really important to bring in outside voices to GMVS.” As it turns out, only by knowing and naming our identities and blind spots, can we be good friends, teachers, parents, and community members.

To learn more about Mirna, check out her website HERE