When girls grow up to be healthy women, communities are stronger. That’s the reason the Marion County Public Health Department partnered with the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana to bring the national Give an Hour organization to Indiana, starting with two IPS schools.

As part of the partnership, Give an Hour launched a 10-week school-based program that promotes the social and emotional well-being of young girls.

Sixth-grade students at Floro Torrence School 83 and fifth-grade students at Meredith Nicholson School 96 were selected as the first groups in the pilot program. The curriculum is aligned with the new social and emotional learning competencies introduced by the Indiana Department of Education earlier this year.

Fifth and sixth grades are an important time to build healthy habits and relationships. Students are at a crucial age when they are young enough to learn healthy habits, old enough to actively participate, and the right age for this information to make a difference and prepare them for success in middle school.

“Suicide is the third leading cause of death for children 10-14 years old in Indiana, so we have an urgent need to reach children at an early age,” said Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director of the Marion County Public Health Department. “Teaching social and emotional wellness skills through programs like Give an Hour can decrease substance use disorder, mental illness, juvenile crime, and public assistance.”

Girls in the Give an Hour program take part in exercises that promote self-confidence, healthy relationship habits, relaxation skills and resilience. They also have an opportunity to discuss their social and emotional well-being. If a student does not have access to additional support, the program will work with the family and connect them to a no-cost resource.

“Women’s Fund is committed to ensuring every woman and girl in our community has an equitable opportunity to reach her full potential, no matter place, race or identity,” said Jennifer Pope Baker, executive director of Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, a fund of Central Indiana Community Foundation. “That is why we are excited the Marion County Public Health Department partnered with us to bring Give an Hour to our community. When we support girls with gender-specific programming, they grow up to become healthy women. And that’s beneficial for our entire society.”

Following the Give an Hour launch at Floro Torrence and Meredith Nicholson, the goal is to grow and expand the program to other schools and summer programs, reaching more girls in Marion County.

“Social emotional learning has become a key component in educating our children at all grade levels within Indianapolis Public Schools,” said IPS Interim Superintendent Aleesia Johnson. “We’re especially excited to welcome this program for girls at a critical age in their mental and physical development as they prepare for the important transition to middle school.”

“Give an Hour is proud to launch our Give an Hour Indiana effort with an initial focus on promoting the social and emotional well-being of girls and women,” said Barbara Van Dahlen, PhD., founder and president of Give an Hour. “We are so grateful to the Marion County Public Health Department and to the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana for making this critical work possible.”

Organizations interested in volunteering or providing support to the program are encouraged to contact Suzanne Clifford, Give an Hour Indiana’s senior advisor, at SClifford@giveanhour.org.

Anyone interested in starting a conversation with their child about emotional well-being and healthy habits is encouraged to visit www.womensfund.org/campaigntochangedirection for important tools and information.