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  • Girls on the Move in New York

    by Sarah Elzas

    The mix of girl-power gusto with “does this harness make me look fat” comments coming from a dozen or so varsity athletes from Manhattan’s all-girls Hewitt School climbing a ropes course in Central Park was both odd and perfectly fitting. The course, part of the Girls on the Move campaign, was intended to encourage and raise awareness about the issues surrounding girls in sports.

    Seventy Girls on the Move riders completed a 3,865 mile cross-country bicycle ride from Portland, Oregon to New York City, stopping in five major cities along the way at organized Girls Festivals. The ropes course was part of the final events in New York.

    “I wasn’t scared because I knew they were holding me. I wasn’t going to fall,” said ninth grader Alexandra Youdeen with gusto, as she removed the blindfold she had just climbed with.

    “It’s great for them to do something that’s hard and them to succeed,” said Susan Nicholas, a teacher at Hewitt school who accompanied the girls on the course.

    Girls on the Move is a project of Outward Bound, the largest non-profit adventure-based educational organization in the world. “We started a women’s Outward Bound forum,” said Pandora Judge a leader at North Carolina Outward Bound School. “We realized we weren’t using our voices.” They created Girls on the Move because they had seen the positive shift in girls’ perceptions of themselves through Outward Bound courses.

    “We realized that there was a great need to get young women outdoors,” said Judge who biked the first leg of the trip from Portland to Denver.

    Girls who spend time outdoors do better. “It helps them realize that they can accomplish things that society tells them they can’t do,” said Judge. The climbing walls were part of an effort to help girls “know their bodies in a physical way,” explained Sue Pegrume, a fellow leader.

    “A lot of these girls are already involved in athletics,” Pegrume commented on the Hewitt girls. “They seem more confident than others, maybe because it’s an all-girls school.”

    The girls already felt a sense of community and friendship, and with shouts of encouragement and hugs for those who had finished, they supported themselves through something that at times was a frightening experience. “It was extremely challenging. It kept on swaying in the wind,” said twelfth-grader Mary Garvey. “But that’s what makes it fun for me—being scared.” #

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