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Middle-schoolers empowered to be the most ‘Beautiful U’

Middle school girls from across West Michigan learned how to care for their minds, bodies and souls at the “Beautiful U” event hosted by Maranda 

Multiple districts — More than 150 girls from across West Michigan attended the 14th annual “Beautiful U” event last week at the Mary Free Bed YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

Hosted by WOOD-TV8/WOTV kids and family expert Maranda, the event is designed to encourage and empower young women to love themselves. 

For four hours, attendees from middle schools in Cedar Springs, Comstock Park, Grand Rapids and Kentwood took part in educational workshops, made yogurt parfaits and participated in yoga, Zumba and video games with members of Ferris University’s esports team.

Several community partners and teachers shared positivity messages to uplift and encourage the girls to be their most authentic and beautiful selves, inside and out. 

In the yoga room, Priority Health’s vice president of population health and health equity Shannon Wilson introduced two dogs from the Priority Pups program and explained the importance of caring for mental health.

“There’s a lot of pressure and stress for young girls in schools these days. They’re going through a lot more at a younger age,” Wilson said. “The Priority Pups program places dogs in schools to help ease stress and anxiety about going to school.” 

Seventh-grader Addison Williams from Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy said petting the therapy dogs and eating snacks were her favorite parts of the day.

“I learned that dogs can be helpful even for your mental health,” she said. 

Wedgwood Christian Services Teen CHARGE program coordinator Gina Boscarnino led a workshop on building healthy and strong relationships, based on positive traits like trust, communication and loyalty. 

“Building a relationship is like building a building with a solid foundation,” she said. “Building a relationship with jealousy or a focus on popularity can weaken your foundation.”

After the event, each student took home a gift bag and a journal, filled with stickers and inspirational messages and designed and assembled by students from the Kent Career Technical Center’s Graphic Communications Program

Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy seventh-grader Mayiah Ferrell said she learned that relationships matter, and that you don’t have to be on a diet to eat healthy, but “probably shouldn’t wake up at 7:00 a.m. and eat Hot Cheetos.” 

She added: “You’re beautiful inside and out and your health and mental health matters.” 

Read more from our school districts: 
Students plan activities to make community a better place
Making an impact: Tutoring center empowers kids through literacy

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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