In 2006, while I was working with students at the old Clark Middle School here in Springfield, I was stunned by how many kids in poverty, at such a young age, had lost a parent or someone else they loved due to something preventable: Drugs, reckless accidents, diabetes or heart disease at a really young age. It seemed so unfair! And it prompted me to dream about some “what ifs”:
What if we could help middle school girls learn healthy habits early on?
What if we could we could eat healthy snacks with them, even do cooking projects together, so that as they got older and had their own families, they were putting their families on a healthier path?
What if we could exercise with them, cheer them on, and help them feel comfortable at places like the YMCA?
What if we could create safe spaces for them to talk about their problems, listen to each other, and learn how to have healthy friendships?
What if we could do all this while helping girls learn about the God who loves them and created them to thrive?
That summer SCYM launched GirlPower, and it’s been running as an afterschool program ever since. Hundreds of girls and dozens of volunteers have been part of GirlPower over the last ten years — 68 girls just last year! We now have a full-time GirlPower Director, Jessica Hanely, who runs GirlPower four days a week at different sites around Springfield.
When it comes down to it, what makes GirlPower a great program is the friendships that grow and flourish and lead to life change in our girls (and leaders!)
Since 2006, here’s what we’ve seen happen through the program:
- 77% of girls reported they were more likely to exercise then before they came to GirlPower
- 72% felt more confident
- 81% paid more attention to healthy food choices
- 72% felt better about their own body
- 82% felt closer to other girls in the group
We couldn’t do it without these amazing community partners!
Wittenberg University (where we’ve found a small army of volunteers!)
Springfield Family YMCA (who hosts GirlPower girls one day each week)
Clifton Avenue Church of God, High Street Nazarene, Roosevelt Middle School, and Perrin Woods Elementary School (site hosts)
Springfield Museum of Art (who hosts a 3-week art project for our girls each year)
Community Health Foundation (funding partner)
Young Woman’s Mission (funding partner)
Clark County Department of Job & Family Services (funding partner)
Hayward Middle School, Roosevelt Middle School, Schaefer Middle School, Catholic Central Junior High, Perrin Woods Elementary School (school partners)
Here’s to many more years of Springfield girls crushing the odds with the love of God!
SCYM Executive Director