Girls for a Goal
“Positive, relatable role models are so important for girls..."
Entering middle school is a big transition for all kids, and for girls it can be especially tumultuous as they struggle with social pressures and acceptance. For Eliza Schenck, middle school was especially hard, since she struggled with pressures from friends to have to look a certain way to be accepted. This led to lower self-esteem for Eliza, until she began playing lacrosse in fifth grade and field hockey in sixth. It was not until recently that Eliza looked back on her experiences in sports and realized everything she had gained, including that she had learned to value feeling strong and healthy over looking a certain way. Eliza is not alone in how she felt in middle school: Over 80% of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat. Girls’ self esteem tends to sharply decline around 12 or 13 when a girl enters puberty, and often does not improve until age 20.
When Eliza created Girls for a Goal, she wanted to empower and encourage middle school girls through sports. Eliza wanted to teach girls the importance of being accepting of others and themselves in an open environment by creating a sports program where older high school girls can lead by example.
“If girls are taught to believe in themselves early on, there will be lasting effects in their future, including successes in education, health, and employment. Sports are an excellent way to build confidence, through both wins and losses.”
Implementation of the Project
Eliza worked with female high school student athletes to create a fun-filled day for fifth and sixth grade girls. For the Girls for a Goal play day, Eliza developed a schedule for the day that included instruction in field hockey and lacrosse, a soccer scrimmage, and small group discussions focused on self-esteem and confidence. All of the activities were led by the high schoolers. The high school students did an excellent job leading the younger girls with energy and enthusiasm, so the middle school students shared their enthusiasm for the new sport. When leading the small group discussions, the high school girls opened up about their own experiences in middle school and encouraged the fifth and sixth graders to participate and openly share their own thoughts.
“Positive, relatable role models are so important for girls, especially when they are beginning puberty and are going through so many changes that can detrimental to their emotional health. High school girls are perfect mentors for middle school girls, because they have recently been in middle school and understand how the younger girl feels.”
Results of the Project
The Girls for a Goal playday had a total of 14 energetic fifth and sixth grade girls participate. Eight high school volunteers came out to teach field hockey and lacrosse and be a positive support for the middle schoolers. The four hour play day was a fun success, for both the high school and middle school girls who participated.
Eliza hopes to hold another Girls for a Goal playday in the Spring of 2017, and grow the Girls for a Goal program beyond just the playday before she graduates from Greensboro Day School in 2018. Eliza would like the Girls for a Goal program to be continued and the leadership role of planning the playday to be passed down after her graduation.