New Camp Proves Inspiring for Greensboro Girls 

Posted on April 24, 2024

girl and woman with hoola hoops

By Sarah Newell

For two days during spring break, 50 elementary-aged girls tried new physical activities and games in a welcoming, empowering environment at UNC Greensboro. 

They were part of the inaugural Spring Break Camp, which was held by UNCG’s Center for Women’s Health and Wellness with the School of Health and Human Sciences. The camp was generously sponsored by the Dawn S. Chaney Foundation, enabling the camp to be free for the fourth through sixth grade girls who attended. 

The all-female camp was led by female faculty, alumni, students, and instructors, enabling the campers to feel confident in the activities they participated in. This included pickleball, volleyball, yoga, basketball, dance, and yard games, among other activities. It was held at the at UNCG, allowing the girls to be on a college campus and see what life is like in a higher educational setting. 

Dr. Sandra Shultz, director of the (CWHW), said educating this age group on the importance of exercise — while still making it enjoyable — is crucial. 

“Girls’ physical activity declines in late childhood and early adolescence, such that only 15% meet the recommended physical activity guidelines by the time they reach 12 years of age,” she said. “Common reported barriers to girls engaging in physical activity include lack of enjoyment, confidence, and access to physical activity resources, suggesting that any programming aiming to increase physical activity in girls needs to address these barriers.” 

For CWHW graduate research assistant Maslyn Behler, it was wonderful to see the girls become more outgoing in the all-female environment as they tried new things. 

The girls opened up during the duration of the camp. It was awesome to see them make friends and realize they could be themselves at camp. In addition, some of the girls looked up to and formed bonds with the counselors. I hope this camp helped them see that living healthier lives can be fun, social, and accessible.

Dr. Sandra Shultz, Director of the

Behler said having the camp at Kaplan was important. 

“It allowed them to expand their knowledge of how to be physically active and how to lead healthy lives,” she said. “Our unique setting of the Kaplan Center empowered the girls to envision themselves as college students someday and have access to all the amazing things the Kaplan Center offers. In addition, the girls could interact with a variety of community members, from graduate students to teachers to undergraduate students to athletes. I think it is something that may have impacted them implicitly and was unique to our program.” 

CWHW graduate research assistant Emily Postlethwait enjoyed seeing all of the campers participate in the activities, and was excited with the energy they put into everything. 

Active girls, Healthy girls campers

“I am so proud of every girl that showed up and tried new things, especially when they were scared. I am proud of them for being vulnerable with themselves, with each other, and the Active Girls-Healthy Girls staff,” she said. “Their efforts each day did not go unnoticed, and I hope they themselves are proud, too.” 

CWHW Graduate Research Assistant Eryn Murray agreed, saying it was inspiring to see the campers build relationships and try something different time and again. 

In between the physical activities, the counselors and various guest speakers talked to the girls about different health topics. This included how to calm their body and mind, making healthy food choices, mindfulness, the unique challenges girls face being physically active, and more. They also had general discussions during lunch and snacks, to get to know each other and talk about what was on the girls’ minds. 

For Dr. Jessica Dollar, associate director of CWHW, the chance to provide this programming for girls, in a female-only camp, was something she thought was extremely successful. 

“We were intentional in providing a variety of content in terms of physical exertion and learning about ways to be both physically and mentally healthy,” she said. 

It was important that the campers felt that they could be themselves and move freely without feeling like they were being physically judged or competing with others. 

Dollar said CWHW learned some things, too.  

“We definitely learned about some topics and activities that were more successful and popular than others, which will guide our design of activities next year. However, we think we had an appropriate mixture of time to move versus learning and talking,” she said. 

CWHW began planning the Spring Break Camp last spring, after re-envisioning another one of its key programs, the Program for the Advancement of Girls and Women in Sport and Physical Activity (PAGWSPA). After re-thinking PAGWSPA, CWHW identified several barriers to girls being physically active, and created the strategic plan for the Spring Break Camp, which included six staff members, eight volunteers, eight speakers, one community partner, and one university partner to successfully operate it. 

The Dawn S. Chaney Foundation enabled the food to be free, transportation to be provided to and from several Guilford County Schools for girls who needed it, equipment to be available, and the speakers and additional resources to be available. 

“Dawn’s gift reduced any barriers for girls to access the camp. This was huge,” said Shultz. “Most importantly, her support as an advocate for girls to be physically active was also very much appreciated in how she assisted us in getting the word out into the community. We are very grateful for her support.” 

Chaney was there for most of the camp, and Shultz said she saw a big smile on her face while seeing the girls climb the rock wall, learn about exercise, play one of the many sports, talk about nutrition, and interact with the UNCG faculty, staff, and students who were there. 

It was very encouraging to see young girls able to come to a higher education institution and to see all the activities and sports programs. I saw them build relationships and experiment with their bodies for what they could do. Having their instructors there, teaching them and encouraging them was very important

Dawn Chaney, Dawn S. Chaney Foundation

CWHW Faculty Fellow Dr. Jaclyn Maher expressed the importance of ensuring this age population knows good physical activity habits and said there were signs the girls would continue what they learned. 

“At the end of the two-day camp, more than 90% of girls reported being more confident in their ability to be physically active compared to the beginning of the camp, and their knowledge of how to be physically active had improved compared to the beginning of the camp,” she said. 

CWHW is also working on an app so the girls and their parents or caregivers can continue to participate in some of the activities and content that they learned in their daily lives. 

Postlethwait said she hopes this camp is only the start for those who attended. She said the goal is for the girls to go on and continue to be active throughout their lives, and to spread the message to their friends, family, and to others. 

CWHW hopes to hold the Spring Break Camp again in 2025, possibly expanding it to four days, based on the feedback they received from this year’s attendees. They’d also like to extend the community outreach and expand the activities offered.