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Community Leaders Share Success Stories, Work to Get Girls Active at GoGirlGo! Leadership Institute

For Michelle Williams, it was as simple as walking her kids up stairs instead of taking an elevator.

For Dara Bailey, it was changing the way she speaks to the girls in her program – building trust between participant and group leader, showing the girls that “adults are humans, too.”

When more than 30 leaders of programs that utilize the Women’s Sports Foundation’s award-winning GoGirlGo! curriculum came together last Wednesday at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning in New York City for the annual GoGirlGo! Leadership Institute, they shared. They talked about the small things that they do with their girls to keep them active and discourage sedentary lifestyles, one of the curriculum’s main objectives. They discussed the challenges that accompany providing girls in largely underserved communities with the opportunity to play.

Through the conversation came the wave of stories — stories of victories despite lack of space, lack of trust and lack of resources. Like the time the girls from Bailey’s program delved so deeply into and conversed so openly about the GoGirlGo! chapter on Harassment that they asked to expand it into a group project. It ended in a poem and a performance.

“It was unbelievable,” she said through tears. “They went from not wanting to engage in the program to doing that!”

The stories were a driving factor during the institute, which was designed to train new GoGirlGo! members on implementing the curriculum into their program. Nearly 75 percent of the attendees are new to GoGirlGo!, which has reached more than one million girls since its inception in 2001, targeting elementary, middle and high school aged girls. In a country where more than one in three girls is sedentary, the need for the program is undeniable. Additionally, the program’s GoGirlGo! New York City Grant has awarded more than $6 million to girl-serving organizations in the greater New York City area.

In addition to the panel that featured Williams, Bailey, Mashal Azhar and Marissa Vega of New York Junior Tennis and Learning (NYJTL), the program leaders broke off into small groups that focused on the best methods of introducing the curriculum into their organizations.

For those organizations that cater to Hispanic communities, GoGirlGo! is also offered in Spanish. WSF’s research “Her Life Depends on It: Sport, Physical Activity and the Health and Well-Being of Girls and Women” reveals that Hispanic and African-American girls suffer even greater negative health consequences as a result of less engagement in physical activity and less access to sport and physical fitness programs. This further emphasizes the need for programs like GoGirlGo!, which works to combat these issues specifically in organizations that primarily serve girls of color.

For the program leaders, the transformation they’ve seen in their girls since introducing GoGirlGo! has been enormous.

“At first, our girls weren’t excited about or interested in the program,” Vega said. “Once we completed the curriculum the first time, the girls wanted more of GoGirlGo!, so we repeated it over and over through the year. Now they love it so much that the boys want to do it too.”

For general information on the GoGirlGo! program, please click here. For parents looking to motivate their daughters to become active and foster a positive environment for girls, check out our bilingual Parent’s Guide. To download the free curriculum, please click here.