Pioneers Women's Lacrosse Work with Girls' Challenge Program in Norwalk

Girls Learn Lacrosse with Sacred Heart University Pioneers

NORWALK, January 14, 2011 – Students in the Girls' Challenge program at Family & Children's Agency in Norwalk recently had a special opportunity to learn lacrosse from champions, thanks to the Pioneers on the women's lacrosse team at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield.  Girls' Challenge, which is part of the Agency's After School Program, is designed to help middle school girls achieve their full potential for leadership and success.  The Sacred Heart lacrosse team, three-time winners of the Northeast Conference Championship, has developed a relationship with the younger girls that will continue through their upcoming season. 

Nicole Messina, who is a team captain this year, started the project after a conversation with Jennifer Barahona, Director of the Center for Youth Development at Family & Children's Agency.  Ms. Messina, a Sacred Heart senior who is majoring in social work, explained, "I interviewed Jen Barahona for a school project last year.  When she was discussing the Girls' Challenge program, I realized that I could help out.  I thought it would be nice to have the girls come to campus, and it could be a motivational, fun, and educational trip."

During their visit to the Sacred Heart campus, the Girls' Challenge participants learned the basic skills of lacrosse.  Each of the younger girls worked with two lacrosse team members, throwing, catching and picking up ground balls.  Then the Pioneers demonstrated a game, with assistant coaches providing commentary for the younger girls.  Girls' Challenge participant Angel McCall appreciated the chance to learn about lacrosse, noting, "We learned what positions we can play in (on a lacrosse team), and we got to play a little lacrosse.  It was so much fun."

The Girls' Challenge group also toured the Sacred Heart gym and then spent time talking with the older girls.  Amy Jefferies, Academic Specialist for the After School Program, elaborated, saying, "The older students talked a lot about college and how it is helping them work toward their life goals.  Our (Girls' Challenge) girls asked lots of questions about what it's like to go to college, which classes the team members like, and how to organize your time to get homework done and still have time for other activities." 

Before leaving, the girls made plans to keep in touch with the lacrosse team members and attend one of their games in the spring.  As Ms. McCall said, "I really enjoyed being there.  We got to talk to the (older) girls and have a tour of the gym.  I was having so much fun that when it was time to leave, I didn't want to go.  I made a lot of new friends, and it will be great to see them again in the spring."

Ms. Messina noted, "I think the girls in Girls' Challenge benefited from this program because it gives them something to strive for.  We stressed the importance of school work, dedication, and commitment when it comes to playing a Division 1 sport while in college, and I think they also learned a lot from that."  She added, "The SHU LAXers definitely benefited as well, because we were able to realize that we can be bigger than just a sports team, and that, as members of this community, we have obligations to be role models for these younger girls." 

Girls' Challenge is funded by the Bishop's Fund for Children, County Assemblies, Fairfield County Community Foundation, and Lone Pine Foundation.  For more information on Girls' Challenge and other programs of Family & Children's Agency, please call (203) 855-8765 or visit www.familyandchildrensagency.org.

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 Photo caption:  Sacred Heart University's Jackie Boswick demonstrates good technique for Angel McCall at the lacrosse clinic for Girls' Challenge participants.

Family & Children's Agency is a non-profit family service organization serving the needs of more than 10,000 individuals – including children, adults and families – throughout Fairfield County and beyond.  Skilled professionals serve clients in seven impact areas: youth development, family strengthening, foster care, adoption, behavioral health, homeless services, and services for seniors.  For more information, please go to www.FamilyandChildrensAgency.org.