Kennedy’s ‘Go Girl Go’ Club Helps Elementary Students Develop Self-Confidence, Good Decision Making Skills
By VICTORIA CARUSO
June 2, 2016 at 4:00 AM
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Back in March, Kennedy Elementary School second grade teacher Colleen Hook implemented a ‘Go Girl Go’ club for second, third and fourth grader girls. Created by the Women’s Sports Foundation, the goal of Go Girls Go is to help girls develop positive self-esteem, leadership skills, physical activity, the ability to deal with bullies, and good nutrition.
“It is an educational activity centered curriculum with emphasis on developing self-confidence, good decision making skills, and sound strategies to help our girls meet the challenges of adolescence,” said Hook, who as the club’s advisor, communicates with parents, organizes and plans lessons and activities.
Hook, who has taught at Kennedy since 2001 and who prior to having children, served as a high school girls track, and middle school cheer and cross country coach for seven years, said establishing a club of this nature for elementary age girls is something she wanted to do for quite some time.
“As a coach, I saw girls struggle with self-esteem, self-confidence, and social aggression. I really felt that there was a need for ‘Go Girl Go’ because I see girls in my second grade class struggling with these issues and wanted to help them at a young age feel that they have the power to succeed at anything they set their mind to and live a happy, healthy life,” she said.
Some of the topics that were covered in the ‘Go Girl Go’ club included building confidence, empowerment, self-esteem, body image, moving your body is fun, teamwork/cooperation, bullying, leadership, nutrition and stereotypes – such as run like a girl, scream like a girl, etc. “In my house saying you scream like a girl, run like a girl or any negative reference to a girl is considered a bad word,” said Hook, mom to three boys, ages 9, 7 and 2. “I try to instill in them how to respect women and how they are their equals.”
“I joined ‘Go Girl Go’ because I wanted to learn what bullying is like and how to stop it,” said fourth grader Hailey Fonti. “In “Go Girl Go” I like how we did friendly activities to help all of the girls become best friends or just regular friends.”
Second grader Evalyn Szalanczi added, “I joined "Go Girl Go" because I like talking about eating healthy and sports and all of those things. I like playing all those games that taught us to work together.”
Madison Matusz, a third grader at Kennedy, said, “I joined “Go Girl Go” because I thought it would be an awesome after school activity to learn things that can change the world, stand up for myself, eating healthy, and making good choices. What I like about ‘Go Girl Go’ is if you’re in a situation, you might make better choices. This is why I joined ‘Go Girl Go’ and what I like about it.”
The Kennedy club, which currently has 45 members, meets on Mondays after school for 45-minutes and is run by Hook with assistance from teachers Brittany Lillis and Heather Hearne-Pascale and paraprofessional Tracey Hartman. Each Monday morning, club members wear their pink ‘Go Girl Go’ shirts to school and Hook said that she has already seen a positive change among the girls.
“I really have seen a positive impact on the girls. It is so great to see them every Monday wearing their shirts excited to come to our club. I also love listen to them talk when we are walking out at the end of our session. They are smiling and happy, talking about what they loved about that week’s session,” she said.
Since joining the club, many of the girls are also embracing a healthy lifestyle outside of school as well. “Parents have been emailing me pictures of the healthy snacks their daughters are trying, telling me how they are trying to eat healthier,” said Hook. “The girls are feeling better about themselves. I try to keep instilling in them that they are our role models here at Kennedy School,” Hook said.
Since the club’s inception, former Kennedy students have come to speak to the girls, including Mackenzie O’Brien, now a student at South Plainfield Middle School, and Kaitlyn Smith, now a student at South Plainfield High School as well as Alyssa McCreesh, one of Hook’s former South Plainfield High School track athletes who is now a graduate student at DeSales University.
“They spoke about being a girl athlete and playing sports, balancing schoolwork, and dealing with girls and social aggression,” Hook said. “They even gave them situations that they had been in and how they handled them. When we were walking out, the girls in the club were all talking about how they couldn't believe that the older girls had all dealt with the same issues as them!”
For the 2015-2016 school year, the club met 12 times and Hook said she hopes to start getting the girls involved with community service and fundraising projects. She would also like to see former Kennedy student female athletes become involved. “They can serve as great role models for our girls,” Hook said.
“I joined ‘Go Girl Go’ because it is a program that let’s girls have courage and to believe in themselves,” said fourth grader Ava Feltz. “It inspires me to do my best. I like it because it makes me feel that girls can do anything that boys can do! ‘Go Girl Go’ is a club that is special and fun and it encourages me to be me!"
Third grader Emma Hoppe added, “I joined ‘Go Girl Go’ so I can be more confident about myself and to know what to do when someone bullies me. I like that we don't just talk we play games and we act it out.”
Another example of the positive impact the club is having on the girls was apparent in an essay entitled ‘We Will Win the Fight’ written by second grader Courtney Gregory. “It was about how girls can win the fight and be as good and strong as boys,” Hook said.
Courtney’s poem, ‘We Can Win the Fight,’ reads: I believe that girls can change how boys think about us. Boys think that girls are wimps and they say you run like a girl, you hit like a girl, and many other things. I believe that we can win the fight. We can win the fight, we will win the fight. I believe we can be as good and strong as boys. I believe.
Of being in the club, Courtney said, “I like being around my friends. I thought it would be fun to learn other things about how to handle bullying, how to boost my confidence, and how to stick up for myself or my friends.”
For Hook, Courtney’s poem, combined with all the positive feedback from parents and those girls involved, proves the club is working and shows how the students are to be girls.
“They won’t let anything stop them or stand in their way,” said Hook.
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