Middle school is often a challenging and somewhat awkward time in life where young people are attempting to figure out who they are and where they fit in, all while navigating school assignments, extracurricular activities and responsibilities in their homes. The stresses of being in middle school may be overlooked by busy adults, and it is indeed possible that the physical and mental health of a middle school student may suffer due to the student’s preoccupation with other obligations and the lack of time the adults in their lives can spend addressing such matters.
Representatives of the Girls Empowering Movement, also known as GEM, participated in the University of West Georgia’s Spring Involvement Fair on Jan. 22. GEM is a program created by girls for girls. It seeks to provide mentorship and community for middle school girls in the areas of cardiovascular health, nutritional health and mental health.
“Our first student organization fair was great,” said Georgia Hamby, president of GEM girls with the UWG.
“We had a lot of people come by and tell us that they’ve heard of us. That made us really happy because we’re trying to get our name out there and spread the word about our organization because it is so important for girls,” said Hamby.
GEM visits middle schools all around Carroll County, making themselves known through flyers that are sent home with the students. A pre-survey is taken into account for the female students, and the number of girls signing up has been exceeding expectations.
“Our goal was 250 girls to keep the program up and running,” said Hamby. “And we have surpassed that. It’s been really nice.”
The mentors working with GEM are assigned to at least one school, and the mentors lead various activities for the girls that get them moving and active, as well as getting to know each other.
“We like to get to know what the girls like and what they want to do, and center the activities around that,” said Hamby. “Some parents sign the girls up and sometimes there are girls who don’t want to be there at first, but once they understand that we want them to come back and participate then they do get more involved in the activities.”
Some parents sign their daughters up for GEM so that they can develop leadership and teamwork skills through the activities, as well as get their daughters physically active.
“Technology is really big right now, I think a lot of kids go home and go straight onto TikTok or some other social media. GEM is a great opportunity for girls to take an hour to build friendships and get active,” said Hamby. “We also strive for inclusivity. We understand that not everyone participates in sports and we want everyone to enjoy this. With our activities, we try to avoid games like dodgeball where you pick on the weakest link and get them out.”
Hamby encourages other students in college to get involved with GEM, because not only is the mentorship a benefit to the girls, but it is also a benefit to the mentor.
“When I came back to school, I told myself that I wanted to be a part of something,” said Hamby. “GEM had a table set up at a job fair that I happened to go to, and I gravitated towards that table. I’m so glad that I got involved because it really shifted my perspective on some things.
“I did not think I would ever work with middle schoolers in any kind of way, but I support the mission of this program,” continued Hamby. “I love how we are empowering young girls and equipping them to be set up for success when they get older.”