Girls in one Midland school are learning some important messages about living a healthy life thanks to a new program by Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe.
Go Girls! Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds is a mentoring program for girls between the ages of 12 and 14. It is designed to encourage physical activity, healthy eating choices and the development of a positive self-image.
“The goal is for the girls to have an appreciation of the benefits of an active lifestyle,” said France St. Amour, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe.
“We want to support the girls (and) provide them with the right tools to choose and maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’re trying to enhance their confidence and self-esteem…. If their inside feels good, then they will feel good on the outside, too.”
The program, which runs in seven sessions and is led by volunteer female mentors, incorporates fun, educational games and activities. The idea is to build the mentor/participant relationship – as well as spark self-reflection and group discussions about healthy living and emotional, social and cultural issues.
Each session is structured around three key Go Girls! themes: active living, balanced eating and feeling good about oneself.
While Go Girls! is a national program, it has only recently been launched in North Simcoe, noted St. Amour, through a pilot project at Mundy’s Bay Public School.
“The need is there. When you look at the bigger picture, you (realize) that girls between 12 and 14 don’t really do physical activity – unless they’re athletic. I think every school should have a program like this,” she said. “It helps them transition between (being a) teen and adulthood.”
Rae-el Woo and Abigail McTague are the first two participants in the local program. They said they are enjoying their experience.
“I thought it would be a cool thing to do after school,” said Rae-el. “It’s pretty fun.”
Abigail agreed, saying the Go Girls! program is teaching her how to avoid making bad decisions in the future.
Principal Barb Condren said she felt the program would offer an excellent opportunity for female students to address issues such as self-esteem, eating disorders and healthy living. She added that having someone closer to their own age to discuss these issues with seems to be what appeals to participants.
“Girls are facing a lot of tough decisions. This is a great opportunity to not only get guidance, but also present choices.”
Although the program is starting off small – only two students signed up for it this time around – St. Amour is confident it will grow as more young people learn about its benefits.
In the meantime, she is hopeful she will be able to recruit enough mentors to deliver the program to three groups next year.
For more information on the Go Girls! program, call 526-5051 or visit www.kidsdomatter.com.