Connecting Through Movement: AWHI reaches out on National Girls & Women in Sports Day

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

All you had to do is look at the smiles on their faces.

It was plain to see that getting active is a whole lot of fun.

On Wednesday, Feb. 1 — also known as National Girls & Women in Sports Day — representatives from the Active Women’s Health Initiative, supported by a Move Together grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation, traveled to Leestown Middle School to exercise and get active with students.

“When we are out in the community, our goal is to provide youth with active role models and opportunities to participate in different types of movement,” said Dee Dlugonski, PhD, Assistant Professor in Athletic Training and the Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI).

Six UK students came along to serve as Movement Mentors for the 16 middle-schoolers, representing Athletic Training, Human Health Sciences, Kinesiology, Pre-Communications, Sciences, and Disorders and Community Leadership and Development.

“As I watched our Movement Mentors encouraging girls to try new movements and to be their authentic selves, I was reminded how much we can learn through sport, movement and physical activity,” Dlugonski said. “We are fortunate to have the support of stakeholders within the local schools, community exercise leaders, and our funding partners who make this work possible.”

Overall, the Movement Mentor program is supported by a grant from the College of Health Sciences’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and the Leestown trip was supported by a Move Together grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation.

The Active Women’s Health Initiative, part of SMRI founded by Dr. Mary Lloyd Ireland and Dr. Hanna Hoch, seeks to advance girls’ and women’s physical activity and health through research and outreach. These outreach programs aim to close the gap in physical activity participation between boys and girls by creating a variety of accessible and evidence-informed physical activity opportunities that are led by active role models, Movement Mentors. Their outreach programs identify the health needs and preferences of school partners and match community resources to meet these goals through school-based programming for girls and their families. This work brings together the University, community, and schools to positively impact physical activity and health. 

Throughout the afternoon, the Leestown students were able to learn about strength and stretching from Ms. Cindy Parsons Osterhage, as well as healthy and active behaviors. Each participant took home an elastic band to engage in the activities at home.

“If we can influence these young women to be more active, then we can also help them become strong, healthy, more confident, and ultimately more successful in any of their chosen endeavors,” Dlugonski said. “This is one of the ways the Initiative is so rewarding.”


Mentors at National Girls & Women in Sports Day:

Kenta Mizumoto, Graduate student, Athletic Training
Olivia Crowe, Human Health Sciences
Cailyn Trant, Kinesiology
Bella Ross, Pre-Communications, Sciences, and Disorders
Ella Sweeney, Human Health Sciences
Shadajah Ballard, Community Leadership and Development, UK Track & Field Athlete, Program Management Intern with Active Women's Health Initiative