BIO Girls, serving girls grades 2-6 in the Twin Towns and the surrounding area, is hoping to have more girls join the summer program beginning Tuesday, July 28 and going through Tuesday, Sept. 8.

“I would love to fill it with 40 girls because I think the more the girls we can impact and have them go through this program will change their lives for the better,” BIO Girls Site Director Hailey Gunderson said. “We believe in this program and we have seen it do wonderful things for girls in the past and we believe in its message.”

The “BIO” in BIO Girls stands for Beautiful Inside and Out. The regional non-profit’s mission is to provide an opportunity for girls to build confidence, self-esteem, develop leadership skills and achieve goals through a weekly whole group meeting and small group mentoring sessions.

The 12-week program was shortened to seven weeks, although there will be two weekly sessions rather than one a week.

“We could’ve gone eight weeks and taken some of the lessons out but I honestly think all of the lessons they have are so valuable and beneficial,” Gunderson said. “I know that going twice a week may be a hindrance to some families, but we want them to know that they don’t have to come every single time — just as many sessions as they can make.”

The program is dedicated to improving the self-esteem of adolescent girls through positive mentoring, life skill development and physical fitness in a faith-based, non-denominational environment.

“We start out with a devotion or a prayer and then we’ll have a lesson. Whether that is kindness, self-compassion, meditation, social media,” Gunderson said. “Every session is a different lesson.”

The girls also train to run the Miles for Max 5K, a run that raises money for bereavement boxes at Sanford Health. The 5K this year will take place Saturday, Sept. 12.

“It’s not all about running. Running is a very small part of it. The reason that we have running is to keep them accountable (and) to have them set goals. Each week they can see their progress on something they didn’t think they could do,” Gunderson said. “The cool part is that we get to see girls maybe jogging for like five seconds and stop and walk and then to see their progress up to the 5K and they can run a straight minute without having to stop.”

The girls’ build-up to the 5K by increasing their mileage slowly during each session, beginning with fun activities involving running.

“BIO Girls is open to girls in grades 2-6,” Gunderson said. “They picked that age group in particular because they noticed that that’s the age group where self-esteem really plummets and they can make a big impact with that age group.”

The cost for registration is $65 which includes a T-shirt, giveaways and the Miles for Max 5K fee. Although, BIO Girls offers scholarships that can be found on their website.

“We don’t ever want that registration to be a burden or a barrier for the girls and their families,” she said. “There is a handful of girls who applied last year and I don’t think they have turned anyone down for a scholarship.”

The BIO Girls regional site came up with strict guidelines that the local site will follow which includes hand washing, hand sanitizing and 6 feet social distancing. The club meets at Faith Church in Wahpeton and will require everyone to wear a mask while inside. The girls’ temperature will also be taken at the beginning of each session.

“We are really trying to be safe and make sure everyone feels safe in that environment,” Gunderson said.

Breckenridge Elementary Principal Corinna Erickson has been a mentor for the program in a couple of different communities.

“I enjoy getting to know the girls and mentoring them through some challenges that girls face as young ladies. I have seen girls grow and meet goals that they never thought they would or could when it comes to race day. The fun activities and lessons we go through create lasting memories for all of us. The time goes so fast and the individual small group sessions within the time we are together helping girls feel more comfortable in sharing their challenges. We are all able to share ideas and support one another as we build their resilience, grit, conflict resolution and friendship skills,” Erickson said.

For more information, visit biogirls.org or contact Gunderson via email at wahpeton.nd@biogirls.org.

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