Erin Mahoney, left, of Milford, congratulates girls at Elmwood School in Hopkinton for a job well done during Girl Power, an after-school enrichment class sponsored by the Hopkinton Parent Teacher Association, yesterday afternoon. Photo Credit: Kathleen Culler/for Daily News and Wicked Local


- By Whitney Clearman/Daily News staff, The MetroWest Daily News -

HOPKINTON

Lining the wall of the Elmwood School gym, a group of second- and third-grade girls, faces marked with paint to symbolize strength, chant "I am awesome" as they get ready to tackle an obstacle course.

As the Bruno Mars song "Just the Way You Are" plays in the background, instructor Erin Mahoney encourages the two dozen girls to run their hardest.

"Remember, your best is always good enough. We are warriors, right?" she asks as the girls start to sprint around the course, dodging orange cones and shuffling to the finish line.

It's the third class of Girl Power, an after-school advocacy course that urges girls ages 8 to 14 to "be strong, be smart, be amazing" as they work through the challenges that come in a body-conscious society.

The eight-week course is offered at three schools in Hopkinton, with hopes to expand the program to Hopedale and beyond.

After an eight-year stint in the Air Force and a second career as a personal trainer, Mahoney, a Milford resident, says she wanted to share her lessons of healthy body image and good lifestyle choices to girls all over the Milford area.

"What I'm supposed to be doing is be with these young girls," Mahoney said. "When they leave here, they just feel so good."

Girl Power was first offered last winter and spring at Hopkins School and Elmwood Elementary School but this year includes Hopkinton Middle School for the first time.

Each class has a different theme, including fitness, nutrition, how to make good friends or how to take a stand against bullying, Mahoney said. Her goal is to promote self-esteem.

"When they feel down, I say, 'Did you do your best?"' Mahoney said.

During the class, the girls chat while doing jumping jacks and punches. One participant wears a shirt that says "Play like a girl" in bold letters on the front.

Jasmine Battikha, 8, and Grace Waldeck, 7, said their favorite part of the class was creating warrior face-painting. Kate Dion, 7, said she liked the kick-boxing best.

Michelle Stevens of Hopkinton heard about Girl Power from the Hopkinton Parent Teacher Association. Her daughter, Carly, is in the program for the first time this year.

"She comes home all pumped up. It really teaches them about being a good person and to be proud of who they are," Stevens said.

It is also 7-year-old Emma Steir's first year in the program, said her mother, Mary Steir.

"She loves it. She loves the message and the physical part, too," Steir said.

Even an injury from another activity didn't stop Emma from joining in on the exercises, Steir said.

"Her arm's in a sling, but she's still going!" her mother said.



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