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'Girls in the Game' Kicks Off in Auburn Gresham

As part of the Elev8 initiative sponsored by Atlantic Philanthropies to ensure middle school students succeed in school and their communities by providing them with multiple supports, the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) and Perspectives Charter Middle School-Calumet Campus (PCS-Calumet) have partnered with a citywide organization called Girls in the Game.

Several Perspectives middle school students listen to Girls in the Game coaches and participate in a round-robin discussion regarding sports, nutrition, fitness, and leadership.

Ernest Sanders

Founded in 1995, Girls in the Game has a mission to provide and promote sports and fitness opportunities, nutrition and health education, and leadership development to enhance the overall health and well being of all girls. Since that time, Girls in the Game has provided services to more than 15,000 girls and today reaches out to more than 2,000 girls citywide.

Girls in the Game came to PCS-Calumet as part of its Elev8 program to provide female students further knowledge and direction about matters sensitive to their age group, gender and community.

The program consists of participating in an organized sport, developing leadership skills, and learning about health-related issues including obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, and stress.

A Girls in the Game part-time coach demonstrates how to position and stop a soccer ball.

Ernest Sanders

Girls in the Game also works with students at PCS-Calumet on the importance of maintaining high self-esteem. Studies (including one from the Commonwealth Fund) show that female youth entering adolescence are more likely to have issues with self-esteem than their male counterparts.

Female students at PCS are more likely to "Elev8" themselves among their peers, better prepare themselves for high school, and make improved choices concerning their health and community.

Liz Pearson, programs director for Girls in the Game, pointed out that certain students do not participate on a school sports team for a mainly two reasons — the availability of the sport within the school or community, and their own fear of not being talented enough.

Girls in the Game is sensitive to this issue and brings organized activities to PCS-Calumet that aims to eliminate these barriers, ranging from traditional sports as soccer, basketball, volleyball, and track-and-field to non-traditional physical activities as yoga, aerobic kick boxing, dance, and lacrosse.

Monique Turner, program manager at PCS-Calumet, was ecstatic to have Girls in the Game come to their school.

“Students are taught the basics and the importance of participation in an organized sport, and more importantly [they are] encouraged to participate as leaders and teammates. I really like the fact that Girls in the Game reassures each student gives input and participates in an orderly fashion. It really helps to nurture and mature our student body’s character.”

Female Perspectives middle school students line up before practicing dribbling techniques with a soccer ball.

Tiffany Horton

When asked why they decided to participate in this afterschool program, female students gave a variety of responses:

  • "I like Girls in the Game because they offer a variety of different sports and learning activities."
  • "Girls in the Game gives you the chance to play and learn different sports."
  • "I get to meet and associate with other classmates that I have not met during school."
  • "I heard about Girls in the Game from another student who recommended I join."
  • "The snacks are my favorite part."
  • "I like that it is just girls only."

Pearson relishes the beliefs of her organization. "Girls in the Game is committed to the successful outcome of our female elementary, middle, and high school students throughout the City of Chicago," she said. "We really enjoy being here at Perspectives and are very thankful for the relationships we established with the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) and the entire PCS network. We are very thrilled to encouraged positive lifestyle choices with our participants."

Part-time coaches Kristina Zuidema and Ashley Smith both spoke highly of Girls in the Game’s mission and its application at PCS-Calumet.

“As a coach for Girls in the Game, I believe it is vastly important to give young ladies an opportunity to participate in an organized sport," Zuidema said. "It builds their self-esteem and allows them to discover their hidden talents.”

Part-time coaches Ashley Smith (left) and Kristina Zuidema educate Perspectives Middle School students about other important facets regarding soccer.

Tiffany Horton

Smith, a South Side native, replied similarly. “I have always been interested in helping female youth transition from childhood to young adults," she said. "Girls in the Game’s activities and curriculum are very crucial to our youth’s moral fiber and also important to insure students have a good outlook on themselves.”

Girls in the Game is slated to be at PCS-Calumet for 30 weeks, teaching 10 different sports, and meets from 3:30 p.m.-5 p.m. If you would like more information on Girls in the Game, please contact Liz Pearson at (312) 633-GAME (4263), ext. 205; Michelle Mason, GADC's Elev8 Director, at (773) 483-3696; or Monique Turner at Perspectives, at (773) 358-6300.

You may also visit Girls in the Game’s website at

A version of this story first appeared at


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