Dr. Breanna Nolan has always passionate about making a difference, especially in the lives of our youth. This desire to do good is what led her on the journey to becoming a pediatrician. As a recent graduate from the West Virginia University School of Medicine, her latest endeavor has been to implement the after-school program ‘GoGirlGo!’ at Short Line Elementary School in Reader, West Virginia, where she attended as a child.
‘GoGirlGo!’ is an initiative of the Women’s Sports Foundation, an organization that was founded by the tennis legend Billie Jean King. Dr. Nolan, a Pediatric Residency Rural Health Scholar, first learned about this project through her research on after-school programs that she could implement in rural communities.
She was impressed with the statistics supporting its success and that the program would be free to those who wished to participate. According to Dr. Nolan, the program is designed to focus on girls ranging from ages 5 to 13. Participants are engaged in thirty minutes of physical activity followed by an additional thirty minutes of health education. Some of these education topics include nutrition, body image, self-esteem, substance abuse, bullying, leadership, diversity, and dealing with difficult emotions. This well-garnered curriculum is an all-encompassing one that nurtures all areas of health, including mental, social, emotional, and physical well-being.
It is no secret that physical activity is a great way to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. In fact, Dr. Nolan has spoken with a clinical therapist who told her about “walk and talk” therapy. Combining physical activity with talk therapy has shown to be highly effective, as it helps to promote positivity through the forward motion of walking. By merging exercise with a health education curriculum, Dr. Nolan will be creating a positive and uplifting environment for her participants. This safe environment will help young girls learn and develop healthy ways to process and share their thoughts and feelings.
“I want to give back to the community that gave so much to me as I grew up,” Dr. Nolan said. “I think that middle school can be a tough time full of transitions and changes, and I hope that the girls will use these lessons to help them cope and even thrive throughout this integral time of adolescence.”
Dr. Nolan anticipates for this project to provide girls with more opportunities for physical activity outside of competitive sports. Such opportunities were not readily available to her when she was younger and there were few safe places for children to walk and play outside. By removing the competitive component of physical activity, Dr. Nolan wants the girls to enjoy being active with their friends. It is her intention that this program will create a unique and lasting support system for its participants. Educators at Short Line Elementary School are eager for the program to start.
“I see girls in my class everyday struggle with self-esteem,” Tracy Mason, a teacher at Short Line, said. “Some of the problems that they encounter are bullying and cliques. Another problem is socio-economic status. Certain girls feel less than adequate because their opportunities may not be the same as others. This also applies to materialistic items.”
Mason added, “I believe that the ‘GoGirlGo!’ program has the potential to have a big influence on the youth of our rural community. I think it is important to have a program such as this for girls to have an avenue to express their concerns with their physical and emotional well being.”
Dr. Nolan’s initiative gained support from the Wetzel County Board of Education after she gave a presentation detailing her plan to implement ‘GoGirlGo!’ Her passion and determination to make a difference made quite the impression on the Director of Secondary and Vocational Education, Tammy Holbert Wells.
“‘Go Girl Go!’ in a remote, rural area like the Short Line will impact young girls in ways beyond the mission of the program of increased physical activity,” she said. “The young physicians working with these girls will undoubtedly be excellent role models for our students to emulate, and Breanna is one of them.”
Wells continued, “How much hope does that give a young girl with a brain on fire and the drive to succeed? Imagine the young lady that has skills and smarts, but has never dared to dream of becoming a physician or whatever she wishes? Seeing a physician from her hometown working with others to make a difference just may be the catalyst for her to achieve her dreams.”
Dr. Nolan hopes to have the program fully implemented by the spring of 2019. To learn more about ‘GoGirlGo!’ and how you can start up the program in your own community, you can click here.