Wagmatcook afterschool program introduces healthy lifestyles to girls

Wagmatcook afterschool program introduces healthy lifestyles to girls

Published on December 23, 2013


The Victoria County girls only program expanded to the Wagmatcook school in the fall, after a successful introduction last winter at Cabot High in Neils Harbour.


"Girls Only has been going really well and the girls are really enjoying themselves," said Jackie MacLellan, a program leader. "The program was awesome."


Participating in Wagmatcook were 30 girls in Grades 7-12 who took advantage of physical activity and healthy eating opportunities to benefit participants. The program also introduced a variety of activities and healthy foods to participants that included 19 students from Grades 7-9, a group studies have identified as the least active.


“Thrive and Naturally Active Victoria County and our partners continue to make a difference in increasing active and healthy life of our residents and visitors, especially our target groups," said Vince Forrestal, physical activity co-ordinator for Victoria County.


"With our First Nation residents facing 2-3 times the health risks this program is important for the girls."


Prior to the program start input into activities was gathered from student leaders and others in the school and community during a program information session.


Wishes expressed were for a kickboxing activity, soccer, yoga and other non-traditional progams.


Forrestal said yoga with Patsy MacKenzie turned out to be one of the more popular activities.


"The key here was that the participants had input into what they wanted to do, supported by their leaders and program partners who were behind the scenes sharing resources to make this new initiative a reality."


Healthy eating and utilization of facilities within the community were important program components, as well.


"The girls loved the program hoodies," said Susan Matheson, a program leader. "The program was amazing."


When the girls only program first began in Victoria County at Cabot School, 22 of the 46 eligible girls in Grades 7-9 took part regularly in free activities like cheerleading, yoga, Zumba, and hip-hop dance.


Naturally Active Victoria County has also had discussions to expand the program to Baddeck Academy in the winter. A program for Rankin School of the Narrows, Iona is also possible.


"The overall goal is trying to hit our rural isolated areas which our schools are in, in Victoria County," said Forrestall. "My goal is to have a girls-only program throughout Victoria County for Grades 7, 8 and 9."


Program partners include Nova Scotia 'Thrive' Child Obesity Strategy, Naturally Active Victoria County, Victoria County, Wagmatcookewey School, the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness and Cape Breton Family Resource Centre Society.


"Having the partners sharing resources is a key as one person or organization could not do this themselves," said Forrestal.


"Having the school principal support, teachers, accessing school and community facilities is key, along with First Nation leadership and, of course, municipal council."