Heart and SOLE Sisters: Empowering girls one step at a time!

December 9, 2015

Featured Events

Heart and SOLE Sisters: Empowering girls one step at a time!

Our Community Health Educator, Karianne Lesperance teamed up with Mrs. Ashley Karkkainen at Blesch Intermediate School along with Jenni Campbell with the YMCA to host the first ever “Heart & SOLE Sisters” program this Fall!  We had so much fun doing the program with our 12 middle school girl participants and an article that the Eagle Herald featured us in explains the program so well:


The Menominee Area Public Schools, Greater Marinette-Menominee YMCA and Healthy Youth Coalition have partnered to form the Heart & Sole Sisters program.
“It’s about empowering girls one step at a time to be fearlessly kind,” said Ashley Karkkainen, sixth grade teacher at Blesch Intermediate School. “It creates a safe environment where girls can connect, helps them express themselves authentically and celebrates what makes them beautifully unique. This program gives girls the tools and confidence to manage conflict, drama, rumors, gossip, toxic friends, and manage a healthy lifestyle.”
The first seven-week session began in early September. The program is designed to incorporate running and a curriculum that is based on improving self-confidence for girls. A total of 15 sixth- to eighth-grade girls from Menominee and Marinette who were not involved in fall athletics could participate in the program.
The group met twice a week for 90-minute sessions. Yesterday was the last day of the program and the girls will be participating in the Freak Friday 5K race today that is being held by the YMCA.
Karkkainen said that the program is designed to incorporate a variety of goals such as; encouraging an honest conversation about “girl world” and help create a sense of support and sisterhood.
With a total of 25 plus sponsors, each girl who participated in the program received a drawstring bag that included: a running shirt (which had all of the sponsors names on it), running shorts, a sports bra, socks, water bottle, headband and a pair of adequate running shoes.
Karkkainen explained that she wanted to begin this program to reach out to girls to teach them about self-respect, respecting others and self-confidence.
“We (the partners) wanted to develop a program to teach girls how to be supportive of one another and to help them believe in themselves,” she said. “By the time that you’re in seventh or eighth grade, and you’re in a co-ed physical education class, there are so many confidence issues.
“A lot of these kids haven’t tried any of the sports that are offered. In our community we have a lot of awesome resources. Just because they exist doesn’t mean everybody has access to them or knows about them.”
Along with Karkkainen, Jenni Campbell (mission director at the YMCA) and KariAnne Lesperance (community health educator for the Healthy Youth Coalition) teamed up to reach out to local business and people for sponsorships, along with filling out numerous grants.
One of the main ideas of the program was that the participants in it would not be charged a fee.
Heart & Sole Sisters not only involves running, but as Karkkainen described it, “Every time we meet there is a big idea.”
The group begins with a discussion about what the main goal or objective for the day is. After which they run and then have time to reflect as a group about their session.
Karkkainen said that her favorite activity thus far would be the topic of strengths and obstacles.
“Everybody has different strengths and must face obstacles, it’s about how you deal with them,” she said.
The activity involved the girls setting a goal of how many laps they would complete around the track by the time they finished running. The adults stood around the track with slips of paper in their hands that had either a strength or obstacle. If the girl received a strength slip, she could continue on running. However, if she chose an obstacle she would have to complete that before continuing on. This obstacle could be anything from walking a lap to doing five pushups, anything that would slow them down from meeting their lap goal.
“Girls had a choice if they got a strength, they could keep running or they could give it to a girl that was stuck,” Karkkainen said. “What we saw was so amazing. Many of the girls tried to give their strength cards away, but almost all of the instances, we saw the girls chose to work through their obstacle to finish it.”
Emma Axtell and Autumn Tupper, both participants of Heart & Sole Sisters, said the program has been very beneficial, socially, physically and emotionally.
“Being around people my own age that I haven’t really known really has made me realize that I can be who I want to around them,” Axtell said.
Tupper, who transferred to Blesch from Trinity Lutheran in Marinette, explained that being part of the group has really helped her build self-confidence.
“It was a big change and this helped me because I met a lot of new girls,” she said. “We all have got to know each other and have become best friends. This helps because not everybody is nice in school. The adults teach that you have to believe in yourself and don’t listen to what others say.”
Another session of the program will be offered next spring. For more information contact Karkkainen at 906-863-4466.
“Middle school is hard,” Karkkainen said. “Surviving middle school is more difficult. We want these girls to know that they have a support system.”


Thank you also to Mrs. Mary Oswald, Mrs. Wendy Rauch and Mrs. Erica Fayta for helping us with the program!! All pictures are in our gallery!

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply