With a few new twists to U.Va. Day, Little Sisters and Big Sisters of the local Young Women Leaders Program  in BufordBurleyJouett and Sutherland Middle Schools enjoyed the revamped annual event.

The overall format changed by starting with an active whole-group session and shortened small group, breakout sessions. New topics and speakers contributed to the schedule, such as Technology taught by Kate Ciszek, a master’s student in instructional technology, and Nutrition taught by the JCP Moves Team. Lastly, healthier food options rounded out the list of changes.

More than 120 girls and women participated in U.Va. Day on March 22, which provided Littles with exposure to college life. YWLP Mentoring Coordinator Julie Trevett-Smith said U.Va. Day is meant to be “[…] fun, engaging. We want them to be moving around, learning new things by doing hands-on interactive activities.”

The day started at the AFC with 8th grade pairs taking Zumba, while 7th grade pairs learned Self-Defense. After working out, all pairs had a bagel brunch outside.

“The idea behind the first sessions is designed to get the students moving,” Trevett-Smith said. “…They’re excited to be here so we want to capitalize on the great energy and get them moving!”

Cassie Morton, an 8th grade student at Buford, was a novice to Zumba, however, her Big Sister, fourth year student Bethany Crawford, had taken the class before. Morton said the workout “felt good […], it was fun” and she would do it again if possible. Crawford, who is a master’s student in teaching, agreed that it was “good cardio” and she “enjoyed doing Zumba” with her Little Sister.

Big Sister Eunice Kim, a second year foreign affairs student, was similarly experienced with taking the Self-Defense class before U.Va. Day. This is Kim’s first year as a Big Sister, but she had started a similar mentoring program in her hometown.

Amoree Speed, a 7th grade student at Burley, who is Kim’s Little Sister, volunteered to practice moves in front of the group.  Speed enjoyed learning “the knee kick and the strike” and appreciated that the instructor “ just got right to it […]”

Following the workouts and brunch, everyone walked to New Cabell to attend five 15-minute breakout sessions, choosing from: Nutrition, Broadcasting, Technology, United SistersROTC, Fashion, Dance, Pre-Law, U Guides and Education.

The new Nutrition session allowed students to create a unique blend of trail mix with a variety of ingredients. Once each Little and Big made a bag, they discussed the nutritional benefits, such as how protein keeps them full and builds muscle.

As Speed and Kim typically prefer to eat together, during their “sister time,” it made sense that this was one of the sessions they attended.

“We both liked the nutrition session because we both love eating,” Kim said. “We have cooked curries, pastas and soups together. We love to eat everything!”

In addition to eating, Kim and Speed have visited Grounds quite frequently during their one-on-one time. Speed’s experience at U.Va. Day has convinced her to return.

“She had a really good time and is even more convinced than before that she wants to go to school here,” Kim said of Speed.

Technology is new in the weekly YWLP curriculum. By implementing an offshoot of STEM known as STEAM, Little Sisters design using science and technology. Some art projects were lanterns, stickers and Valentine’s Day cards, which Morton fondly remembered in her U.Va. Day tech session.

“To encourage and promote the 8th grade Littles’ leadership roles in the tech program, we asked them to help demonstrate to the 7th graders from their school how to use the die-cutter and turn 2D images into 3D objects,” Trevett-Smith said.  “The 8th grade Littles did a fantastic job and enjoyed the opportunity to show off their new skill set!”

As a former Big Sister and YWLP facilitator, Meaghan McGarry took a different role with U.Va. Day. She is an intern for the YWLP through the Women’s Center, whose responsibility was to plan sessions. McGarry drew upon past experiences and advice from facilitators to create workshops.

“[…] I overheard a Little Sister ask disappointedly, ‘Is this really our last workshop of the day?’” McGarry said. “Seeing how much she appreciated the workshops made all of my work leading up to U.Va. Day completely worthwhile. Being able to touch just one girl […] helped remind me why I love working with YWLP so much.”

By Agnes Filipowski