Back in 2015, Canton Leisure Services launched a new program inspired by a popular Super Bowl ad. The ad, produced by Always, was created to turn an old-fashioned gendered insult on its head, making viewers rethink what it really means to do things #LikeAGirl. The phrase “You throw like a girl!” has historically been used to shame both girls and boys, and it’s especially damaging to pubescent young women. The commercial shows how pivotal it is to change the connotation of the phrase “like a girl” and highlights just how strong and amazing girls are.

Encouraged by the cultural importance of the advertisement, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was born. Directed towards at-risk, diverse women between the ages of 11 and 15, Lead #LikeAGirl is meant to change the way both the community and the program participants think about female leadership, relationships, self-confidence, and struggles.

Now, the program has been recognized for its impact with an award. In February 2017, Lead #LikeAGirl received an “Innovative Recreation Programming Award” at the mParks Michigan Recreation and Park Association’s annual Conference and Trade Show.

The expo, which is held in Grand Rapids, covers all kinds of topics, from sustainability and overall health to gender identity and tech. And while the top three goals for trade show exhibitors are brand awareness, lead generation, and relationship building, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was recognized for other achievements: namely, their dedication to informing and inspiring young women throughout their monthly workshops.

The Canton Leisure Services staff worked tirelessly to form collaborations with other local organizations, including the Canton Public Library, Canton Public Safety, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, and even Michigan State Representative Kristy Pagan.

During its first year, 15 young women had graduated from the program as of June 2016. Not only do those ladies now understand what it means to Lead #LikeAGirl, but so do their friends, family, and community members.

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