(NORCROSS, GA)— HealthMPowers and partner organizations: Boys and Girls Clubs of Georgia, Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, and the University of West Georgia hosted the 2021 Girls Empowering Movement (GEM)Statewide Leadership Summit from June 25-27. The three-day leadership training event brought together over 240 middle school girls serving as GEM Ambassador Leaders and 120 Adult Facilitators for virtual workshops, guest speakers, and learning sessions.
The GEM Summit served as the kick-off event for The Girls Empowering Movement program which launches this fall at 120 Georgia sites. The five-year, $5.8 million statewide initiative was born out of research and pilot programs led by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and HealthMPowers. GEM aims to increase physical activity and fitness levels of Georgia’s middle school girls and address the gender disparities seen in physical activity levels of Georgia’s children.
“Through research and listening to girls statewide, we saw that middle schools’ girls lacked relevant opportunities to be active. It became clear that girls needed voice and choice,’’ said Abby Lutzenkirchen of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. “That is why GEM is by Girls, for Girls! We are cheering you on as you build a statewide movement for your peers.”
Dr. Lana Saal, Director of Health Promotion, Wellness, and Fitness at NASA provided the keynote address, “Be the Change.” Speaking to the GEM Leaders on mind, meaning and movement – she emphasized the importance of their role as change agents – working together to improve the health and wellness of their generation. “Start with a growth mindset, tie it to your values, your heart, your core – what is most important to you – and that will compel the go which is a change in behavior.”
During day two of the Summit, attendees took part in a variety of physical activity sessions. Special guest instructors included Samery Moras who led everyone in Taekwondo, Bernadette Henry who taught jump rope skills, and Ashley Rouse who provided yoga and mindfulness teaching. The girls also enjoyed a dance cardio movement break between sessions with Savannah Butler.
The GEM Leadership Team, a diverse group of 14 middle school girls who have been at the center of the project from the start, co-led Summit trainings and were featured on a panel entitled, “GEM Leadership Team: Our Fearless GIRL LEADERS!” Speaking from their experience as leaders on the project for the last year, they gave thoughtful insights, advice, and encouragement to the GEM Ambassador Leaders and closed out the Summit with an inspirational video message.
“What is so unique about GEM is that instead of a bunch of adults getting together and deciding: how are we going to solve this problem? It’s a bunch of girls getting together and saying how are we going to solve a problem that directly affects us? How are we going to fix this?” said Ella Sipe, member of the GEM Leadership Team. “We can use the fact that we’re actual middle school girls and we know what problems we’re facing.”
Using the program training materials, toolkits, and online resources, GEM Ambassador Leaders will go on to lead GEM groups of 15-25 girls at each of the program sites. Working together, girls will create physical activity programming based on individual preferences, motivators, and goals. Ultimately, the GEM program will provide physical activity and leadership opportunities to approximately 18,000 girls across Georgia and motivate almost 200,000 middle school girls to get moving.
The Girls Empowering Movement program is funded by: Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, Peach State Health Plan, and Jesse Parker Williams Foundation. Additional support for The 2021 GEM Statewide Leadership Summit was provided by: Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, The Piedmont Bank, Arketi, McClure Health Sciences High School and Constellation, an Exelon company
For more information about the Girls Empowering Movement (GEM) program, visit HealthMPowers.org/GEM.