Program Spotlight Sep 15

SMART Kids make SMART Moves  Program Spotlight: SMART Girls

Good health is essential for a better life. Young women face numerous choices and at risk behaviors that have long-term effects on their well-being. More and more girls are turning to drug, alcohol and cigarette use, developing eating disorders at alarmingly young ages, and taking part in early sexual activity that negatively impacts their health, exposes them to the potential of sexually transmitted diseases, and too often, teenage pregnancy. It is critical that our girls develop the skills needed to make healthy, well-informed choices. At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor, the SMART Girls program offers young women activities and experiences that enhance both their physical and emotional health. Through hands-on projects, role play, field trips, guest speakers and mentors, girls ages 8-17 are learning to be active participants in making important lifestyle choices. 
The SMART (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) Girls programming is designed with two age-appropriate modules – one for girls ages 8-12, and the Ladies First adaptation for girls ages 13-17 offered at the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center. Program lessons are tailored to meet the unique needs of a diverse group of girls, featuring interactive and experiential methods and approaches. 

Rich, well-thought-out lessons are designed to build character and instill the values of integrity, self-discipline and mutual respect in participants. Girls are being enlightened, educated and empowered. The lessons are powerful and invoke important discussions that make girls think about the choices they make and the way the feel about themselves and the people around them.  
In one activity, a situation is described where “Carla” hates her nose and is saving up all of her allowance and pay from small jobs in the neighborhood, counting the days until she could change the way her nose looked. Even though she didn’t know how much the surgery would cost, she saved and saved, missing out on opportunities to use her money to have fun with her friends. Following the story, the girls have discussion questions that ask them to examine the situation and consider explanations and alternatives.

With each activity, comes a realization that our girls are facing adult situations at younger ages and we must educate them now. The curriculum provides the Clubs with a unique opportunity to enable instructors to promote positive values and behavior, while establishing positive peer pressure among young girls who are in a critical transitional period of adolescence. This encourages development of positive attitudes in the face of opposing negative pressures that so often influence behavior at that age.

This program helps drive positive outcomes for youth in the Healthy Lifestyles by allowing girls to explore their own and societal attitudes and values as they build skills for healthy eating, staying physically fit, being aware of the importance getting good healthcare, and developing positive relationships with peers and adults.

Through SMART Girls, the Clubs are fostering confident and accomplished young women, a social investment that guarantees powerful returns for generations to come. We are building a legacy of caring for tomorrow’s leaders. 
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