SBLI believes that supporting our communities is fundamental to the families we promise to protect

Joanna Bradshaw
Fort Meade, MD

Whole Life Insurance

JOANNA'S STORY:
HELPING GIRLS BUILD SELF-ESTEEM

January 24, 2012

Some people love scrapbooking, while others live to scuba dive or run marathons. Others are passionate about pursuits that benefit the community at large. Such is the case with Joanna Bradshaw, a mom of four who lives on a military base in Fort Meade, Md. Her passion? Volunteering at her kids' elementary and middle schools. Brimming with both ideas and enthusiasm, she finds ways to make things happen.

Her biggest coup thus far has been creating Girls Rock, a program dedicated to building self-esteem and encouraging physical fitness in young girls. Bradshaw started it in 2010 while serving as PTA president at Pershing Hill Elementary.

"I came across some statistics stating 1 out of every 3 girls by the age of 8 believes they're overweight and has low self-esteem. That's just heartbreaking," she says. "I had to do something."

Taking cues from another program she'd heard about, Bradshaw drew up a 10-week plan to guide girls through character-building exercises as well as introduce them to a running routine. She also asked active-duty Air Force women on the base to come out and serve as mentors. This proved to be a particularly inspired move. "These women have been awesome role models for the girls," Bradshaw says.

The weekly meetings are part small-group dynamics and part physical training. The girls discuss topics like bullying and do team-building exercises to develop leadership skills. The fitness portion might include mini circuit training and then running, an activity the girls are encouraged to continue on their own between sessions while working toward the goal of completing a 5K.

"It's great to watch their growth, physically and mentally, from the beginning to the end," Bradshaw says. "Girls who couldn't run around the school building, 10 weeks later can do 3.1 miles. It's a wonderful program." She's set to take it to the middle school level in spring 2012 and is excited at the prospect of continuing to work with some of the initial participants, her own daughter included.

The middle school has already benefited from Bradshaw's passion for volunteering. She's been appointed president of the Parent Task Force at Chesapeake Science Point, a charter school in Hanover, Md. It's still so new that it has yet to have a formal PTO or PTA in place. No matter-- this past fall, Bradshaw stepped in at the principal's request to oversee approximately 150 parent volunteers and has so far organized them into 25 task forces. The blood drive can now move forward, moms will get muffins on their special day, the athletics program will receive its due, and career day will occur, as will a host of other activities and programs that make the typical school hum.

For her part, Bradshaw is blown away by the show of support. "It's pretty neat. These parents have some cool contacts and lots of great ideas," she says. "And teachers! I have six teachers running programs. They don't get paid overtime. They just do it because they want to."

Or could it be their desire to volunteer is boosted by the intense passion Bradshaw herself displays? Regarding her impressive resume, she simply says, "I'm a mama bear. The kids come first. I'm touched when girls who did Girls Rock come up and hug me or someone in the hall says "Oh, that's Mrs. Bradshaw who headed up the science fair." It means the world to me because I know I impacted their life in a positive way."

Writer: June Allan Corrigan
Photo: James Ferry