Girls PLAY Enjoys Sophomore Success

    A Girls PLAY attendee cheers on the Trojan lacrosse team.
    May 5, 2015

    As hundreds of middle school girls crowded into the Founder's Room at USC's Galen Center, a sense of anticipation filled the air. The young students, energized by their first visit to a college campus, awaited a full day of mentorship, education and sport.

    With last week's event, the Girls PLAY Program had officially reached the conclusion of its second year, but its impact is only beginning.

    The initiative was created two years ago to instill values of health, self-esteem, and college expectations in local middle school girls through interactions with USC's female student-athletes.

    Despite the perks of guest speakers, tours, and tickets to sporting events, the biggest impact of the initiative has proven to be the campus visit itself, which serves to broaden horizons and offers context for student's academic goals.

    The true success of Girls PLAY lies in the passionate engagement of the student-athletes, without whom the program would fail.

    Cassie Collins, a goalie on the women's lacrosse team, served as a speaker at this past event. "Volunteering is one of the best things a student-athlete can do for the school and for themselves," she said.

    The event has a lasting impact on both the young participants and the student-athletes.

    "It definitely brings my team closer," said Collins, "because I don't think we always look at how fortunate we are, and how far we've come. I think we definitely need to recognize that, and these girls help show us that. This is one of the best experiences I've had at USC--being able to connect with these young girls."

    Each athlete has their own passion and reason for spending time with the participants, making it special for all involved. For the Girls PLAY program, the future is looking bright.

    Next season's cycle will feature five events for sixth grade girls. The year after, ten total events will be held, with five for the new sixth grade class and five for the original girls, now seventh graders.



    The program will later expand to operate at fifteen events a year, with five for each middle school grade level, impacting nearly 8,000 girls. Each grade will focus on a specific aspect of the program: nutrition for sixth graders, self-esteem for seventh, and college goals for eighth.

    Another opportunity sits on the horizon as well; the beginning of Boys PLAY, an initiative for local middle school boys emphasizing nutrition, physical health, education, and issues of masculinity.

    Last week, as the girls stepped back onto buses, their sense of anticipation had not been alleviated, but rather heightened. With new goals and future plans on the horizon, the young Trojans left campus with a solid foundation to build on, just like the program itself.

    "I hope we reach just one girl," Collins said. "One girl and it will all be worth it."