Seniors Shadya Jarecke and Marcell Bruski are ambitious business students at Rocky Mountain College. The two made great strides on campus when they created the club Young Women in Business about a year-and-a-half ago. The club is open to all Rocky students and typically meets once a month.
The club’s activities have included presentations from businesswomen in the Billings community. The women share the experience they have acquired in their profession. However, they altered the first meeting of the new semester by bringing in businesswoman and GREAT Self Defense instructor, Carla Verbsky. Verbsky gave a strong presentation on what true self defense is, shared what steps she has taken to become the person that she is today, and taught real self defense moves to over 100 attendees.
The presentation was compelling and brought tears to some eyes. Verbsky started off the class by giving a three minute fitness test, which was harder to complete than some thought. She then had the class sit down and asked them to define self defense. Answers came from several students and each answer referred to something physical. From there, Verbsky gave three different scenarios that one may encounter that would require physical self defense. Once she completed her demonstration she faced the audience and changed her fierce demeanor to a somber one. Verbsky shared that she is not a great individual because she has a black belt, she is a great individual because she believes in herself. She wanted the audience to know that real strength stems from doing the right thing and turning to violence as a last resort. As Verbsky said, “Physical skills aren’t for protecting our feelings, they’re for protecting ourselves in life threatening situations.”
What made Verbsky’s presentation so outstanding was the fact that she talked about real issues that can happen or have happened to women already, such as being attacked physically, verbally, and emotionally. Verbsky also brought the issue of pettiness to light and stated that women need to stop tearing each other down and should start building one another up.
“Women are the ones who have to endure all this pain, we have to be perfect. Everyone tears up because they know what they are going through and I know what they are going through. I can relate. That is why my message was so powerful,” shared Verbsky.
GREAT is a nonprofit organization that launched in April of 2016. GREAT stands for Girls, Ready, Empowered, and Trained. The nonprofit wants to give students the tools to become confident individuals who have the knowledge to defend themselves in any situation. So far, the GREAT team has visited over 17 schools in Billings, three schools in the surrounding area, and have influenced countless people for the better.
Verbsky’s goal is to positively impact her students. She says, “students may not change today or tomorrow but as long as they remember what I said, that’s what matters to me. If there is one person that walks out of there and even applies one percent of what I said, then my mission is accomplished. I want students to gain from my classes, I want them to see the power that is already inside of themselves, because if you don’t believe that you are already incredibly and amazingly great then you cannot fully succeed.”
Jarecke, president of Young Women in Business, met Verbsky through a professor and learned about Verbsky’s story and work. Jarecke shared that the purpose of the event was to empower women and to bring the women from Rocky and the community together. “Through this event we hope that we can create a supportive and strong family of women,” said Jarecke.
Bruski, vice president of the club, said, “Carla is very inspiring. It is amazing to see how much she has progressed just from last spring, through the summer, fall, to this new year. She started off with this idea and turned it into a huge reality and started impacting so many women’s lives. She has brought the community together in a way that is touching.”
The club hosted an event similar to this one last spring. One component that made this event different from last year’s is the amount of support and help the club received from Rocky and the community. Stand Up RMC, RMC campus safety, and Ramsey Keller Memorial teamed up with the club to make it a success.
Another component that made this event different is the fact that Verbsky brought her co-worker, Dennis Forleo, to help her lead the class. Forleo and Verbsky met through mutual friends and have been building their work relationship since meeting.
Forleo believes in Verbsky’s message and what she is doing because he has witnessed it firsthand. “The character skills that we teach, those are the best self defense moves. When we get to go into the schools and look kids in the eye and tell them ‘you matter,’ it really is touching. What Carla does really starts a transformation within the students. Kids start to figure themselves out, realize that they need to respect their peers and treat people with dignity.”
The event was impactful and uplifting. Although a majority of attendees were adults, Verbsky gave women a reminder to treat others the same way they would want to be treated and reminded women to listen to their intuition. As Verbsky said, “self defense is not fighting, and fighting is not self defense. Your greatness and strength starts from within.”