Liberty graduate Chrissy Hughes inspires girls through GoGirlGo! program
November 22, 2011
By Emily Baer
The Women’s Sports Foundation’s GoGirlGo! program has supported more than 3,000 girls in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties in becoming active, healthy and confident since January 2010, according to Seattle Director Sherri Gazzit.
The Seattle office is one of four branches in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and New York City.
Nationally, the program has set its sights on getting 1 million girls healthy, active and confident. The 2-year-old Seattle office is already contributing significantly to the effort.
GoGirlGo! encourages girls to get active by providing volunteers with a free curriculum that enables them to lead groups of girls in activities and discussions about physical, mental and emotional health.
“It’s a free curriculum that gets girls talking abut issues that are a barrier to getting involved in activity or that come up as they get older in our society,” said Issaquah resident Chrissy Hughes, a student at Seattle Pacific University and GoGirlGo! intern.
The program is designed so each session begins with a famous female athlete’s story regarding the session’s theme. Topics include body image, movement, physical activity, drugs and alcohol, nutrition and bullying.
Stories are followed by discussions, and then relevant activities. Sessions conclude with some sort of physical activity that allows the group to try a new form of exercise every week.
Hughes, who graduated from Liberty High School three years ago, talked about the ways girls in Issaquah may benefit from GoGirlGo!
“I was a competitive figure skater and I didn’t have time to commit to anything else,” Hughes said. “I think it’s the same for other girls who are scared to try new things or to commit to an entire season of a sport. GoGirlGo! shows girls how to get their bodies moving in a way that’s fun. It tries to target girls that are inactive and gives them a slow introduction to physical activity.”
Volunteer leaders in the Seattle area come from various outlets in the community, including the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties; churches; parent teacher student associations; and sports clubs.
“The curriculum is tailored so really anyone can lead a group of girls,” Gazzit said.
Leaders meet with their groups for an hour and a half every week for 10 weeks.
The curriculum is constantly being updated and supplemented, and is available to anyone who has a desire to lead a group. Kits include colorful informational packets for 12 girls, as well as guides for group leaders.
Curriculums vary by age group. GoGirlGo! currently has kits for girls ages 8-15, but will expand the age range to 5-18 in November.
“Based on the feedback we’ve heard, the community really appreciates the fact that our curriculum changes to fit each age range,” Gazzit said. “It’s always being updated, so organizations that can’t afford to constantly buy new curriculums can come to us and get it for free.”
GoGirlGo! also awards grants to groups and organizations that run its curriculum. The money is used to purchase athletic equipment, snacks and anything else that might aid in weekly discussions and activities.
Last year, GoGirlGo! gave $100,000 in grants to King, Snohomish and Pierce county communities. This year, it will give $20,000. Grant money comes from the Women’s Sports Foundation and other donors. Nationally, GoGirlGo! has given more than $5.6 million in funding to girl-serving organizations.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice donated to the GoGirlGo! Seattle branch.
“The Department of Justice gave funds to GoGirlGo! because they believe that if girls are taking care of themselves, they aren’t going to end up in juvy,” Gazzit said. “It’s a prevention tool.”
She said that next year she hopes to reach another 2,000 to 3,000 girls and to continue to work with other organizations that are working toward achieving similar goals.
“There is a real need in the community. When I saw the curriculum I really liked it, but I wondered how well it would work in a real setting,” Gazzit said. “What I found is that girls really like it. It’s important that we take a different approach with girls than with boys. Girls start to drop out of sports in junior high because they’re embarrassed or they don’t want to be masculine.”
Hughes, who is majoring in exercise science and minoring in women’s studies, said her belief in the need to get girls active was reaffirmed by what she experienced during her internship with GoGirlGo! She talked about a specific instance she observed while working behind the GoGirlGo! booth at Spokane’s National Night Out campaign. She led a series of one-minute challenges where participants did as many jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups as they could in 20 seconds each.
“It was very simple — you didn’t have to reach a certain number,” she said. “I was surprised at the number of girls who were resistant because they felt embarrassed.”
But no girl should feel uncomfortable about being active, she said.
“It makes me so sad because there are so many more benefits to being active than what our society says — which is primarily that exercise is good for losing weight,” Hughes said. “GoGirlGo! shows girls how fun physical activity can be, no matter what level they are at.”
Emily Baer is a former intern for The Issaquah Press. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.