For Immediate Release

Joined by Keynote Speaker Dr. Gail Christopher from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

NOVEMBER 12, 2015, BENTON HARBOR – On Thursday, November 12, 2015, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor celebrated some remarkable young women at the Fettig Youth Campus (600 Nate Wells Senior Drive, Benton Harbor, Michigan). During the Rise Above luncheon, Mikelae Kirby, age 13, was also presented with the 2015 Young Woman of the Year Award. 

The SMART Girls program offers young women—ages 9 to 18—guidance toward healthy living and good decision making. Through dynamic sessions, group activities, field trips and mentoring opportunities with women leaders, Club girls enjoy the opportunity to build skills for eating right, staying physically fit, getting good health care, developing positive relationships and so much more. 

“SMART Girls teaches me how to work hard, get good grades in school and to always be a leader,” says 13-year-old Mikelae. “I want to avoid the negative things that I see happening to some girls in our community. I will walk the Benton Harbor High School field as a graduate.” A member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor since her sixth birthday, the team at the Clubs have watched her grow and mature, becoming a leader to her peers. Mikelae sets an example for younger girls in the Club and is focused on her education.
“She is a special young lady,” said Program Director of the Fettig Youth Campus Liji Hanny. He continued, “Mikelae understands and respects the responsibility that comes with leadership, staying humble in the spotlight and continuing to exemplify the values at the core of the SMART Girls program.”

“Girls in our community are facing enormous challenges to their health at shockingly young ages,” explains Lynn Todman, event co-chair and Executive Director, Population Health at Lakeland Hospital. “It isn’t enough to tell them to eat right, exercise, and avoid risky behaviors. We need to create environments in our communities that support and promote healthy behaviors. SMART Girls is part of that environment.”

Marcia Fettig, event co-chair, agrees. “This event is important, and the SMART Girls program is vital for the girls in our community. If we want adults who are healthy and make smart life choices that create a strong community, then we have to support our kids now.”

Speaking at this inaugural luncheon was Dr. Gail Christopher—a nationally recognized author, speaker and leader in health policy and vice president for policy and a senior advisor at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan. Gail is a nationally recognized leader in health policy with expertise and experience in the issues related to social determinants of health, health inequities and public policy. Her distinguished career and contributions to public service have been honored with multiple fellowships and awards for leadership and innovation. Gail holds a Doctor of Naprapathy degree from the Chicago National College of Naprapathy in Illinois and completed advanced study in the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in holistic health and clinical nutrition at the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities at Union Graduate School of Cincinnati, Ohio. She is president of the Board of Directors of the Trust for America’s Health.
This was the first year for both the SMART Girls Rise Above event and the SMART Girl of the Year Award.

For more information about the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor or to schedule an interview with staff, youth, or Dr. Gail Christopher, contact Kimberly McCoy at 269.363.4808 or

Located at 600 Nate Wells Senior Drive, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor has served the youth of Benton Harbor since 1999. The Club provides after-school and summer programs promoting educational and career development, character and leadership development, and healthy lifestyles for nearly 2,000 children and teens at the Fettig Youth Campus and Joel E. Smilow Teen Center. Learn more at 

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