BIO Girls of Crookston is a new non-profit organization taking hold in the community, with a goal of improving the self-esteem of adolescent girls through empowerment of self and service to others.

BIO Girls of Crookston is a new non-profit organization taking hold in the community, with a goal of improving the self-esteem of adolescent girls through empowerment of self and service to others. 

“BIO” stands for “Beautiful Inside and Out.” The three pillars of BIO Girls are positive role modeling and mentorship, life lessons using a faith based curriculum and physical activity with a running goal in mind. 

The program was started by a group of women in Fargo, North Dakota who noticed the problems young girls have with self esteem. Today, there are 33 locations of BIO Girls programs in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. 

Crookston’s BIO Girls program was begun last summer by Christel Vigness, owner of Functionally Fit and a registered dental hygienist, and Anita Gust, assistant professor of exercise science and wellness at the University of Minnesota Crookston.

Both have a passion for physical activity, which is why they started the program in Crookston. 

“In my professional role I saw a lack of opportunity for young girls,” Gust said. “There is a lack of opportunity for general physical activity in the community.” 

Each BIO Girls program meets during a different time of year, as the goal is to find a local 5K to focus the program around. BIO Girls meets for 90 minutes once a week for 12 weeks, ending with a 5K run in the local community. 

In Crookston, the girls meet on Wednesday evenings from May 22 to July 17, as the program ends with the girls participating in the Ox Cart Days 5K run.

BIO Girls can be between second and sixth grade, but most are around the age of 8. The group is capped at 35 girls, but the program is so popular that there was a waiting list this year.

Meetings begin with large group devotional, which usually includes a reading of a bible verse and a life lesson. Then, the 35 girls split off into small groups with the 10-12 mentors that help run the program. The small groups focus on a lesson, such as practicing how to communicate and listen to others to find true friendship. Lessons are based on a BIO Girls curriculum book. The third part of the night is spent doing physical activities, such as relays, fun running games, and long distance running preparation for the 5K. 

As a part of the program, the girls also do a service project. This year, they will help with the BackPack Program at the North Country Food Bank in Crookston. 

“We want to impact as many girls as we can,” Gust said. “It’s not just about running. We’re not a running a club, we’re not a running program. We just use running as a mode of physical activity. There is such a strong correlation between physical activity and cognition and physical activity and self esteem, that it is a tool to help build self esteem.”

As a researcher, Gust works to collect data from all BIO Girls programs in the area. 

“We do a survey at the beginning and a survey at the end, measuring self esteem, well-being, physical well-being and emotional well-being.” Gust said. “All domains have significantly improved, not just in Crookston’s group, but in BIO Girls as a whole.” 

Registration and additional information can be found at biogirls.org.