Most people associate exercise with weight loss, but for the young girls in North Carolina who spend their after-school hours carrying pledge sheets while they run, practice yoga, and learn martial arts, their workout regimes are geared towards learning about a weightier topic. They’re members of Girls TALK, an after-school program in Chatham County that teaches the value of making healthy choices while focusing on problem-solving skills, goal-setting, and community service activities. The nine girls participating in the program range from six to twelve years old. For ten weeks, one hour per week, they’ll listen to a book reading, learn a technique for solving problems, then set exercise-related goals.

It’s run by Kristan Shimpi, who has her doctorate in curriculum and instruction, and her partner Ginny Thompson, a speech-language pathologist. The girls choose a suitable physical activity and their families then agree to pledge money if the exercise goals are met. Parents are tasked with helping their daughters complete their journals and pledge sheets. All the money collected will go to Girl Rising.

The girls were shown a short video clip of Girl Rising during their first lesson and then discussed the importance of community involvement. “You could have heard a pin drop when they were watching the trailer,” recalls Kristan. The second lesson employed the idea of being a “thinking girl”- someone who contemplates decisions before responding/reacting/making a choice. Kristan even overheard some of the girls talk about donating their allowances to the 10x10 campaign, in lieu of buying toys for themselves.

For their last lesson, they’ll tally up how much money they’ve raised for Girl Rising and then have a celebration. For more about Girls TALK, visit their website here.