“I loved boxing, it helped me get out some frustrating feelings,” one Club member said.

“I got a compliment about my eyes from someone I had never met, it made me feel good,” another member said.

“Drawing what I wanted and creating a self-portrait was very calming. It helped me get negative thoughts out of my head,” said another Club member.

These were just some of the sentiments said during the 2024 SMART Girls Summit, which was all about female empowerment. The annual summit is the culmination of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago’s (BGCC) SMART Girls program, which focuses on the needs of girls, discussing health, fitness, self-esteem enhancement and so much more.

More than 120 girls attended this year, held at the Pedersen-McCormick Club, where the girls from 11 Clubs gathered to participate in several activities.

Thanks to various expert partners, these activities ranged from a boxing class (instruction by Box United), mental health session (led by The Sanctuary Chi), and beauty empowerment (led by The Beauty Genie).

“We are incredibly lucky to have partnered with women-focused groups on the girlhood experience and created such fantastic programs for our Club members,” said Rollie Jones, Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago Associate Director of Sports & Youth Leadership. “This summit is such an amazing experience for our girls to meet other like-minded peers from all over the city and learn from inspiring women at such an influential time in their lives.”

By offering a wide variety of programs and activities, the summit focused on the inclusion of all members and appealing to different interests. From sports and self-care to art and robotics, there was something for everyone.

Club members said they loved being able to try new things that interested them and enjoyed having the freedom in their decisions.

The real highlight was the boxing session, which was new this year. Many of the girls said it was their first time putting on boxing gloves, and several left the session saying they would like to do it again and enjoyed the physical and mental aspects of the sport.

At the end of the summit, as she walked out the door, one Club member exclaimed, “It’s been such a fun day!”

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