Teenaged girls in Blue Springs are boosting their self-esteem, learning to make better decisions in their adolescent lives and becoming more fit this summer. It’s part of the free “Girls on Fire” workshop hosted by the Blue Springs Police Department Community & Youth Outreach Unit and held at Blue Springs Fitness, 1300 N. Missouri 7.
For five consecutive days, girls age 12-17 participate in three and a half hour sessions at the fitness center that enable them to build character, learn about online safety, get in shape and learn to maintain healthy lifestyles. The aim is to address the unique set of challenges facing young girls, said Blue Springs Officer and GOF coordinator Terri Klote.
“I want to make each one well-rounded and feel like they are something after leaving this workshop,” she added on the goals of the workshop. “Each girl has a different height, size and fitness level, but we’re all on the same page.”
Through a series of lectures and presentations by several other BSPD female officers, the girls learn about the dangers of online predators, ways to prevent and react to bullying at school, the criminal consequences of “sexting” (when teenagers send sexually explicit text messages or images on their smartphones), and even self-defense. The lessons are also interspersed with fitness activities, such as cardio workouts or weightlifting, and healthy snack breaks.
“We also had someone from the Mother’s Refuge (and) Hope House talk with the girls and a licensed therapist on hand to speak with them individually if they had needs,” Klote added on GOF.
She said GOF originated after she attended a police training session focusing on young teen girls last year. “I thought it would be a great idea to empower girls at this age.” With the support of her command officers, she was able to start a pilot program last summer and it’s been growing since. The workshop has been offered this past spring and throughout the summer in four sessions, as well as branching out to the Kansas City Police’s youth division.
“It’s strictly voluntarily,” Klote said about the other BSPD officers involved with GOF, “and not mandatory.”
She also said GOF has somewhat been a community endeavor, too.
“Kurt Mueller of Blue Springs Fitness has allowed us to use his facility free of charge, and both the Blue Springs School District and Consentino’s Price Chopper donated fruits and vegetables for snacks.” She also said that DIGIprint in Blue Springs provided GOF banners and Blue Springs Citizens Police Academy alumni furnished water bottles for the girls.
“People have stopped and thanked us for what we are doing with this age group.”
Some of the girls participating in the workshop said it has greatly benefited them, especially with the approaching school year.
“I learned how to be more independent and protect myself when I need to,” said seventh grader Mariah Pratt.
For others, GOF was an opportunity to see friends over the summer break and workout.
“I liked exercising while hanging out with my friends,” said middle schooler Bailey Engelman. “Plus learning self-defense.”
“Girls on Fire shows that law enforcement can be a positive role model,” said Klote, “and we care.”