The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted its second ASPIRE Summit last Thursday, empowering seventh grade girls from Loudoun and Fairfax Counties by focusing on the importance of overall health.
After the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation launched the inaugural ASPIRE Summit in October, it began thinking about even better ways to improve a program dedicated to empowering middle school girls with inspiring stories and strong, female role models.
"We really wanted the Spring Summit to be faster-paced, make sure they have lunch earlier in the day and and get the girls up and moving," the Foundation's Executive Director, Jane Rodgers, said.
By the end of their Spring Summit on Thursday, March 15, which hosted seventh-grade girls from Loudoun and Fairfax County middle schools at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park, that mission was handily accomplished.
Focusing on the importance of overall health, the Summit featured familiar and new speakers along with breakout sessions that provided girls with the opportunity to learn about the importance of both their physical and emotional health while offering strategies to build self-confidence, positive body image, managing stress and more.
An ideal facilitator for those messages was Deesha Dyer, who lit up the auditorium where the entire group began. The executive director and founder of beGirl.world and a former White House social secretary under President Obama, Dyer opened with a vulnerable account of her career and life that captivated everyone in attendance.
"Any chance I get to talk to young girls, or talk to grown girls in general, is tremendous," Dyer said. "I think that we are in a time where they're questioning themselves, we're questioning ourselves, and so any kind of positive affirmation, any kind of positive encouragement, is always something I love to contribute to. And it's just so great that the Redskins are doing this."
Dyer's presentation focused on the phrase, "You are born beautiful and you are born worthy." This became the recurring theme, echoed throughout the rest of the afternoon by a variety of other speakers, including Jocelyn Moore, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Affairs for the NFL; Danielle White, Vice President of Community Engagement for MGM; Alise Dixon, Director of Quality Youth Development at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; and Dr. Stephanie Pylypko, a primary care physician for Inova Health System.
The spring ASPIRE event provided girls with the opportunity to learn about the importance of their physical health, emotional health, and offer ideas for building self-confidence, gaining a positive body image, and more.
"I think all the women throughout the panel, they're living proof, so I think they can talk from experience about what they've gone through, their mentors, how they've worked very hard," Moore said. "Many of us have put in extra hours, we've had to stretch ourselves to do new and different things. I think that's attainable for any young woman who aspires to do things in her life, whatever that is."
Following lunch, groups learned valuable lessons about their self-esteem through an activity led by Dixon, who handed out mirrors and asked each girl to write three positive traits they see in themselves. Across the parking lot, inside the team's Indoor Training Facility, Dr. Pylypko talked through the importance of primary care physicians and eating a healthy diet.
The day wrapped with energy, as Deanna Robinson, a health and fitness training and owner of the Fab Body Factory, led the entire group on a series of workouts and drills that included dynamic stretching and, naturally, some dancing, too.
It was a fitting way to finish what the Charitable Foundation hopes can continue to become a community-building enterprise, empowering girls throughout the area with positive messages and giving parents and teachers a template to keep it up at home and in the classroom.
"It's so exciting," Moore said. "I think this type of program should be in every type of community."
"We are getting incredibly positive feedback from everyone within our building and the surrounding community. I continue to hear that this is something that each community should have so that girls, especially those that may not have mentors in their lives, can meet someone that looks like them, that has achieved success and who they can connect with in a real way."