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Canberra Girls, It’s Your Move

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Imagine a world where girls graduated from high school with the skill set to not only pursue a career or their own business but to manage their stress and wellbeing.

As a woman in my late twenties, I personally look back on my own schooling and wish that these exact skills had been addressed. Ask me to solve an equation using Pythagoras’ theorem or pen an essay and I was set, but when it came to solving real-life problems or putting together a business plan or pitch, I was woefully unprepared. Never mind how to take care of myself mentally or physically.

It’s been more than a decade since I graduated, and it’s refreshing to know that things are changing for Canberra girls. There’s been a slew of programs over the years aimed at better preparing our students, and especially our young women, for real life. However, it’s the ACT Government’s multi-award-winning Entrepreneurs: It’s Your Move program, running since 2012, which has caught my attention. This program aims to improve the health of students across Canberra by using a curriculum that’s all about innovative problem solving and project management, in other words, great skills for life outside of school.

This year, six ACT schools are doing the Girls: It’s Your Move program with a clear goal – to get girls physically moving and address the alarming statistic that only 10 percent of female high school students in the ACT are currently meeting the physical activity guidelines.

In developing this program, the ACT Health Directorate looked into the reasons why these girls are falling short of the activity guidelines.

“Our research found that the causes included not wanting to sweat, feeling embarrassed about how they look when they exercise, insufficient changeroom facilities, limited options for non-competitive sports, some young women not wanting to play in mixed gender teams, and unrealistic expectations about how we should look when we exercise. We know that the underlying cause is around self-identity and confidence,” says Selina Hardwicke, Health Promotion Professional at the ACT Health Directorate.

“To get the girls and their peers more active, students use design thinking strategies offered through the It’s Your Move curriculum,” Selina said.

“The program gives the students access to curriculum resources and a social media and business mentor who will work with them throughout the design thinking process to create innovative and sustainable initiatives to get their peers and themselves more active,” says Selina.

“In addition, schools will also have the opportunity to pitch for up to $3,000 of start-up funding to kickstart their ideas.”

To empower the students’ thinking and to kickstart the initiative, the ACT Health Directorate engaged a range of experts including a psychologist, a nutritionist, a social media strategist, and a hair and beauty tutor to work with the students in breakout sessions at the Girls: It’s Your Move Health and Wellness event [pictured].

“The event gave us the opportunity to build the girls’ empathy around the barriers, and to create excitement for the students as they delved into the curriculum” says Selina.

With all this information at hand right now, students from Wanniassa, Caroline Chisholm, Telopea Park, Amaroo, Calwell high schools, and Canberra Girls Grammar are finding creative, innovative solutions to getting their peers active.

With over 15 years’ industry experience, marketing and communications specialist Amy Nerio from Nerio Group will take the helm as social media mentor, while Social Impact Strategist and entrepreneur Cindy Reese-Mitchell from The Mill House will lead as the business mentor. Together, Amy and Cindy will work with students across a range of phases, including ideation, pitching, launch and implementation to form their ideas and get them up and running. The curriculum includes principles like sustainability, social enterprise, community partnerships, project management, strategy, and content development.

This program not only provides an amazing opportunity for budding entrepreneurs and aspiring professionals to flex their enterprise muscles, but it also shows a changing shift in culture across the education system in the ACT. The added bonus is a rollout of more holistic preventive health measures and solutions thanks to an ACT Government program. With the development of programs like Girls: It’s Your Move or the recent Create-a-Café project, high school students in the ACT can graduate with skills to not only launch their own business but importantly feel more confident about joining the workforce and ultimately have the ability to look after their mental and physical wellness as well.

For more information on the Girls It’s Your Move program, visit health.act.gov.au.

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