New program builds confidence in local youth
By Stella Strong
Growing up can be tough. From elementary school to that awkward transition into the preteen years. Then to high school where change seems to be happening every day, it can be a lot to handle for anyone, especially young girls.
This spring, a new program came to New York Mills with the intention of changing that. Referred to as BIO girls, (which stands for Beautiful Inside and Out), this 12 week program began in 2013 and has since spread out to numerous locations throughout the midwest with the intention of building up young girls confidence and self-esteem.
“After COVID isolation and with mental health crises on the rise in our society, this program truly is so essential.” New York Mills director Jennifer Maki said.
Designed for second through sixth graders, BIO Girls works to build up the girls self-esteem. The program also focuses on a physical activity for the girls. This year they incorporated yoga into their lessons. The program was led by a team of ten adult mentors, two directors, and one junior mentor. All in all there were about 34 girls between second and sixth grade attending the weekly sessions.
During a typical session the girls would start by getting into small groups of about three to four led by one mentor. They’d open up with a journal prompt before going into a non-denominational devotion. After that they came together in a big group for the main message of the day.
“It really is all about setting these girls up with ‘tools’ to be successful,” Jennifer said.
A big part of every session is the yoga part. Not only is yoga shown to improve flexibility and balance, it is also said to benefit mental health. Led by Leona Cichy, it’s grown to be one of the kids favorite parts.
“Some girls really took to yoga. I received many positive words from parents stating their daughter(s) liked yoga so much that they would practice together on their mats at home,” she said. “Another girl would even wake up and practice her yoga prior to school.”
Another important feature of the program is a service trip. The program devotes one of the twelve sessions to volunteering. This year United Way partnered with the kids. Together, they helped pack dental kits.
“By having a service project day, it helps the girls to look past themselves and their own life situations.” Jennifer said.
Throughout the twelve weeks what started as a rather shy group of girls quickly blossomed into a group that resembled more of a family. Jennifer along with the rest of the leaders witnessed as the girls became more open with each other, making new friends and getting out of their comfort zone. The girls went from building themselves up to building each other up. Together, they were the source for all things positive, constantly repeating some of their favorite mantras including, “I am enough”, and “throw kindness like confetti”!
BIO Girls hopes that young girls can take these skills and apply them directly to their everyday life. Instead of becoming slaves to negative self-talk or comparison, BIO Girls is teaching them to approach situations with confidence in themselves and their abilities, recognizing that everyone brings something of value to the world.
“It fills me with so much hope for the future to help teach these girls that they are capable to make a difference. The world needs more kindness and more positivity, we need more encouragers and my hope is that these girls and mentors will go out and be those people.”