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Molly Barker coined the phrase “Girl Box” to describe the imaginary place many girls go around adolescence, where cultural choices and societal stereotypes limit choices as well as opportunities. On November 19 she will speak about the Girl Box phenomenon – and how to show girls out of the box – in a talk starting at 5:30 p.m. in the Campus Life Center Ballroom on the University of South Carolina Upstate campus. It is free and open to the public.

A four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete and founder of the popular Girls on the Run training program, Barker focuses her efforts on preparing elementary and middle school age girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. Called a “social entrepreneur movement,” Girls on the Run now has councils in 208 cities nationwide, and serves more than 160,000 girls and young women each year.

Barker was invited to campus to speak as part of the university’s Year of the Girl Celebration, a year-long campaign to raise visibility of the Girls Studies course introduced within the women’s studies minor program in the fall curriculum. The celebration was also timed to coincide with the Girl Scouts’ year-long celebration of their 100th anniversary.

Lisa Johnson, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, is thrilled to have Barker speak on campus.

“From my perspective in Women’s and Gender Studies, teaching fitness to girls is a great way to counteract the sexist cultural pressures to be quiet, passive, and sedentary. The Girls on the Run program teaches girls to value themselves for their activities and accomplishments, not their appearance,” she says.

Girls on the Run uses athleticism as a method of empowering girls through a 10-12 week, after school 5k training regimen and a course curriculum tailored for 3rd-5th graders and 6th – 8th graders. Barker recognized that many challenges facing girls came on at these ages and in these grade levels, including low self-esteem and lack of confidence. The program is tailored to address and reverse those characteristics.

After her talk, Barker will join girls from the Spartanburg Girls on the Run chapter and their mentors from USC Upstate’s Women’s and Gender studies program, to be recognized at the women’s home basketball game in the Hodge Arena. The Lady Spartans will take on St. Andrews starting at 7 p.m.

For more information on Barker’s visit to campus, contact Lisa Johnson at (864) 503-5724 or mjohnson@uscupstate.edu.

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