After-school program increases sport opportunities for girls in low-income neighbourhoods

Dec 04, 2013

Surrey Community-Schools Partnership offers Girls in Action program to inspire and motivate at-risk youth

There are thousands of low-income families with young children in British Columbia. These families often struggle to find a way to cover the costs of extra-curricular sport and recreation activities that are so important for their children’s health and well-being—costs that many families take for granted.

In order to help tackle this issue in their community, the Surrey Community-Schools Partnership (C-SP), an initiative of Surrey School District, has partnered with different sport and health organizations to create a program – Girls in Action – that ensures at-risk girls from low-income families have the same opportunity as their peers to learn about and participate in sport.

Girls in Action program created to help young girls gain strength and confidence

Girls in Action is an out-of-school, sport-based physical activity enrichment program designed to motivate and inspire at-risk girls to reconnect to learning, envision positive futures, and build self-esteem and confidence to become stronger; not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, too.

There are four targeted elementary schools in Surrey that have a high percentage of at-risk youth. Of those, more than 20% of families are defined as low income in surrounding neighbourhoods. Many of the C-SP staff and principals at these schools received feedback from teachers and youth care workers expressing concern for the number of young girls lacking a connection to their school community citing that very few of the girls had influential, positive relationships and were therefore becoming more susceptible to peer pressure, low confidence and lack of physical activity.

Based on the success of an after-school youth program for boys called Sticks and Stars, the C-SP team set forth to develop the Girls in Action program to help counteract these issues for young girls.

Partnering with YMCAArts Umbrella and A Rocha Environmental Stewardship, Girls in Action offers 100 young girls at these schools ten week sessions and a spring-break retreat to learn soccer, dance and environmental stewardship. The program teaches confidence, coordination, flexibility, body-awareness, self-respect and physical activity—all in a positive environment where the girls can socialize and make new friends. The classes are offered on Saturdays at the respective elementary schools, with support from a District Outreach Worker and YMCA staff member, to help the girls foster a greater connection to their school community.

Girls Only grant funding helps support the Girls in Action program

The Girls in Action program is one of eight programs that received up to $2,000 in the 2013 fall intake of the Girls Only grant administered by viaSport. The Girls Only grant was founded by ProMOTION Plus and the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS to provide opportunities for girls and women in all regions of BC to participate in sport and integrate regular activity into their lives.

In conjunction with the Forever Active Bodies (FAB) 55+ grant , Girls Only is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of BC through the BC Sport Participation Program (BCSPP).


Sport has the power to influence long-term positive changeLogo for Surrey Schools

After a successful pilot year, the Girls in Action program launched for the second time in October 2013 and will run until through to the end of May 2014. Principals and youth workers at each of the chosen schools will continue to hand-pick girls in need to ensure each has the opportunity to participate.

The program supports the development of at-risk youth by giving them an empowering experience to occupy their time during after-school hours and helps re-direct their goals and visions for success. It also creates a foundation for lifelong participation in sport.

 “The Girls in Action program creates a safe and non-competitive environment for girls,” says Silas Godard, Community-Schools Partnership Facilitator, Surrey School District. “The curriculum provides participants the opportunity to gain valuable skills in new sports and physical activities they would otherwise not seek out on their own.”

For the duration of this program, staff and partner instructors also educate girls and their parents/caregivers about the opportunities and resources available to them in their local community to encourage continued participation in other programs or clubs.

For more information on the Girls in Action program please contact Silas Godard, Community-Schools Partnership Facilitator, at


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