STANDING up for her beliefs is important to Amber Townsend. Hearing The Project's Gorgi Coghlan talk openly about her life experience in speaking her mind and being true to herself, resonated with Amber.
Ms Coghlan hosted a group of Woodman's Hill female secondary students for lunch at Lola, the restaurant she owns with husband Simon at The Provincial Hotel. The session capped off a big term for the school's Empowered to Shine program, exploring body confidence, respectful relationships and well-being.
Knowing I'm worth it and knowing I'm going to have bad days but that I have a group of people who cares is really important.Amber Townsend, year 10
"For me, it's been a really eye-opening experience because everyone experiences different things and you can see how others cope with different challenges," Amber
Ms Coghlan spoke about how each girl could choose to become a woman of influence and how no matter what mistakes they might make - and they would make mistakes - how they got back up mattered.
A former secondary school teacher, Ms Coghlan personally found it an important chance to help guide and empower young women in her community.
"Growing up is tough enough and if you can provide support for them, it might help in asking for help in difficult times in life," Ms Coghlan said. "I told about how many mistakes I've made, and continue to make, in life.
It's important for us to be vulnerable with each other and have a support network around. It's about knowing 'I am enough'
Ms Coghlan said it was important for the young women to realise no-one has the perfect life, no matter what it looked like on social media platforms. She candidly spoke to the group about her own experience with social media issues and, ultimately, what really mattered.
The 10-week in-school program used football as a major platform, partnering with Western Bulldogs and AFL Goldfields but built on the Play On Empower pilot program from last year with a stronger focus on connections and leadership.
Amber said she was not particularly a fan of sport but the football elements in the program had given her a new love for exercise and the positive benefits of being part of a team.
Woodman's Hill student well-being coordinator Saskia Boersma said football was the basis for the program, but it led to much more and she was amazed how much each girl how evolved and grown through the term.
Participants, from years seven to 10, will also be able to continue in the program when it returns next year.
"What we see with one-off programs is what students learn tends to drop off. This way, keeping it going through the school life, the outcomes are reinforced, particularly as girls go into VCE," Ms Boersma said.
"...They become ambassadors through the school.
We've had a no of kids say this program is their reason for coming to school - the connections they make are invaluable.
AFL Goldfields female football manager Krista Woodroffe said it was a great step to add more "shine" to the football program this year, in helping to bridge gaps within the school and in positive body image.
Ms Woodroofe said in increasing female participation in sport, particularly for an age-group with high drop-out rates, all the little extra things were vital.
"The biggest influence we're creating is a culture to help girls also flourish outside the football club," Ms Woodroofe said.
"It's about growth in sport but also leadership."
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