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, the Club can help girls build self-esteem and self-worth, and learn to nurture their own mental and physical well-being.
Why is SMART Girls 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 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 13–17 to 9–12.
- 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% of date rapes are reported by girls between the ages of 14–17.
- 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 8–12 and 13–17. 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.