Alexandria group encourages self-worth among young girls

BIO Girls event concludes the 2020 program held outside the Runestone Community Center

Mentor Bridget Thorson (left) looked over at BIO Girls member Alayna Waggoner as they ran a set course near the Runestone Community Center with the Alexandria chapter of BIO Girls Monday, Sept. 21. (Jasmine Johnson / Echo Press)

Stephani Schultz said her daughter came home from each week’s BIO Girls meeting happier than when she left.

On Monday, Sept. 21, Schultz brought a homemade sign that read, “You got this, my girl!” with butterflies and hearts to encourage Mackaiden, a fifth grader, during the group’s capstone event -- a 5K run.

Mackaiden Schultz's mother, Stephani Schultz, and grandfather, Greg Sandeno, hand-crafted signs to cheer her on at the BIO Girls 5K Monday. (Jasmine Johnson / Echo Press)

BIO Girls, a nonprofit organization that began in 2013, is a 12-week program for girls in grades 2-6 that teaches them how to build self-worth based on values, talents and generosity instead of how they look.


BIO stands for Beauty, Inside and Out.

The nonprofit started as a single program with 35 participants and has since grown to include several locations across the Midwest, serving nearly 1,000 participants total.

Throughout the 12 weeks, the girls meet with mentors for 90-minute sessions that include life-skill lessons, small-group mentoring, self-reflection time, non-denominational devotion and physical activity.

BIO Girls curriculum focuses on emotional well-being, physical well-being, servant leadership and healthy relationships, according to its website.

For the conclusion of each year’s program, the girls participate in a 5K.

This year, the Alexandria chapter held its fun run near the Runestone Community Center, the same location where all of their weekly meetings were held.

Co-director Amanda Miller kicked off the 5K event with a devotion about running with perseverance, a positive attitude and eyes on the finish line.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s program was condensed to 10 weeks and started on July 13.


Sarah Nicholls, director of the Alexandria chapter, said that the pandemic restrictions almost caused them to skip the 2020 season.

“Then we realized that the girls needed this more than they ever had before,” Nicholls said.

Co-director Amanda Miller took the temperature of Sidney Moritz as she arrived at the 5K Monday night. Moritz said she enjoyed getting to meet new people and run more as a member of BIO Girls. (Jasmine Johnson / Echo Press)

Weekly meetings were moved outdoors and lessons were modified slightly to allow for social distancing. Parents had to drop their children off, and the girls had to answer health questions and take their temperatures at the start of each meeting.

“It was difficult at first to think about no high fives or group huddles for our end of night cheer,” Nicholls said. “But once we got started, it became second nature.”

Jasmine Johnson joined the Echo Press staff in May 2020 as a general assignment reporter. She grew up in Becker, Minn., and later studied journalism and graphic design at Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minn.
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