Physical activity programs
created by girls, for girls
GEM, Girls Empowering Movement, is a statewide initiative to increase physical activity and fitness levels of Georgia’s middle school girls AND motivate almost 200,000 girls to get moving and engage their communities by taking action to implement physical activity programs that are designed by girls, for girls.
Only 51% of girls have healthy aerobic capacity in 5th grade and by 12th grade, the number drops to 31%. GEM directly addresses the challenge of providing girls with access and opportunities for regular physical activity while empowering them to become change-agents.
Over the last 10 years, Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation(AFYF), under the umbrella of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, has been committed to improving fitness among school-age children in Georgia through strategic giving initiatives and statewide partnerships. For this first-ever grant project of its kind, AFYF has teamed up with trusted partners: HealthMPowers, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, Boys and Girls Clubs of Georgia, and The University of West Georgia – together working to create the next evolution of physical activity programs for middle school girls.
COVID-19 has magnified health disparities and increased mental health issues for adolescents, adding to the rising levels of anxiety and depression already faced by middle school girls. Research has shown that engaging in regular physical activity can improve cognitive and mental health and physical self-perceptions, enhance self-esteem, and lower levels of anxiety, stress and depression.
“We're working to make sure the next generation of girls have physical activity programs that make them feel more confident about themselves and their talents.”
GEM Leadership Team
GEM Leadership Team
A diverse group of 14 motivated middle school girls from across Georgia are at the center of the Girls Empowering Movement (GEM) initiative. The GEM Leadership Team is involved in designing every aspect of the project. Their combined expertise and knowledge ensures that the “girl voice” leads the development of the program brand, communications, and resources.
Girls Empowering Movement will provide leadership training to approximately 7,000 middle school girls at 120 school and community-based sites across Georgia. The regional girl leaders serve as GEM Ambassadors and will receive training in leadership, advocacy, communication and project planning. Utilizing girl-designed resources, GEM Ambassadors will develop new physical activity programs and leadership opportunities for their peers – reaching a total of approximately 18,000 girls.
“Some girls really don't feel like they're worth what they really are. GEM as the name will make girls understand that they're worth as much as a diamond.”
Ayshiah, Age 13,
GEM Leadership Team
In the initial phase of program development, “Girls MOVE”, GEM Ambassadors will lead a group of 20-25 of their peers in developing site-specific physical activity programs designed by girls, for girls. Guiding materials, toolkits, online resources, and extensive training provided to GEM Ambassadors empower them to lead the creation of physical activity programming at each implementation site that is based on girl’s individual preferences, motivators, and goals. The resulting physical activity programs provide access to relevant opportunities for girls to be active all year long and gives them a safe space in a “girls-only” zone.
GEM Ambassadors and adult facilitators will be trained to support the girl groups along their journey from leader to change-maker, guiding them by employing best practices in Positive Youth Development, STEM Design Thinking and Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
“One goal of this project is finding fun ways to get girls more interested in physical activities that they will hopefully enjoy.”
Callie, age 13,
GEM Leadership Team
Create a MOVEment
GEM Ambassadors are empowered to become change-agents during the “Create a MOVEment” phase by making sustainable changes in their own communities.
Girls will create individual Take Action Plans – empowering them to identify community needs, draft a program plan, implement their project, and evaluate success metrics. By engaging other girls through peer to peer networks, girls create a sustainable approach to expanding girl-designed programs and improving perceptions, attitudes, and motivation toward physical activity among their peers.
The Girls Empowering Movement initiative is informed by The Power Up for 30 Middle School Girls Pilot and research led by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Spitfire Strategies and HealthMPowers. Learnings from the pilot program have been applied into the framework for GEM, ensuring that the initiative will create a sustainable statewide program model that provides relevant physical activity opportunities and leadership development for middle school girls.
Partners & Funding
Girls Empowering Movement is a collaborative initiative led by HealthMPowers in partnership with: Boys and Girls Clubs of Georgia, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, and the University of West Georgia.
Funding & Support
Honoring The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s core values of Give Back to Others and Include Everyone, The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation has committed $4.1M to this $5.8M project. This five-year grant investment is the first-ever large-scale initiative to support fitness programming designed by girls, for girls to build youth voice and support the girls’ ideas.
Additional Funding Partners
Georgia Department of Education
Jesse Parker Williams Foundation
Georgia Health Foundation
Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, The Piedmont Bank, Arketi Group, McClure Health Sciences High School, Haskell, Humana, Walmart, and Constellation, an Exelon company
Supporting Partners: Georgia Department of Public Health, Piedmont, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life and the Dairy Alliance/Fuel Up to Play 60