SMART Girls is a component of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s SMART (Skills Mastery and Resistance Training) Moves family of programs. By offering SMART Girls to meet girls’ interests and needs, Boys & Girls Clubs are ideally positioned to help girls build self-esteem and self-worth, and learn to nurture their own mental and physical well-being.
Why SMART Girls is Needed
Studies show that while girls and boys experience a decrease in self-esteem during the junior high and high school years, girls’ self-esteem tends to drop more over time. The key years before and during adolescence are critical in girls’ development, since many carry behaviors and beliefs from this time into adulthood. While Boys & Girls Clubs should strive to serve all members equally, there is no doubt that girls and boys also benefit from some gender-specific programming. Check out these startling trends among girls in the United States: The average age range when girls develop eating disorders has declined from 13 to 17 to 9 to 12. By age 14, girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys. In 2004, more girls than boys started using alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Each year, 38 percent of date rapes are reported by girls between the ages of 14 and 17. Although the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is declining, it continues to be the highest in the Western industrialized world.
How the Program Helps Girls
SMART Girls features modules for ages 8 to 12 and 13 to 17. Each module contains two components. In “It’s Your Body,” Club members examine the physical and emotional developments that occur during adolescence, media influence on attitudes and behaviors toward females, development of personal values in dating relationships, sexually transmitted diseases, and eating disorders.
The second component, “Take Care of Your Body,” focuses on girls’ specific nutritional needs. It provides Club members with basic cooking skills, ways to ensure physical fitness and exposure to community agencies that deal with female health issues.
Keystone Conference Participation
To get the word out, a SMART Girls forum took place at the 2007 National Keystone Conference, BGCA’s annual conference for teens. The session, led by best-selling author, advice columnist and on-air personality Jessica Weiner, was very well attended by the female Keystone Club members. Jessica talked about the importance of girls and women supporting one another instead of feeling they have to compete, not believing the media hype about appearance and having a positive body image, and the dangers of eating disorders.
Additional Keystone Conference SMART Girls forums are planned for 2008 and 2009.