By Katy Macek | Photo courtesy Meghan Skrepenski
Meghan Skrepenski is the founder of Raising STRONG Boot Camps, a Madison-area organization that connects families and promotes self-confidence for children. Skrepenksi, a personal trainer, member of the U.S. Air Force and part
of the National Speakers Association, started the program to set an example for her own daughters: Grace, 14, and Amelia, 10.
In three years, she’s seen how helping girls feel empowered and see the value in empowering others can create stronger, deeper connections that lead to a healthier lifestyle.
“I want to raise daughters who would be recognized as people that will do the right thing no matter what. I also want girls to realize there is no benefit to kicking somebody down. There’s no ‘Queen Bee’ mentality [in life] — you don’t get to the top without other people,” explains Skrepenski.
Her boot camps are team-oriented and incorporate challenges. Skrepenski says the program uses bodyweight exercises and people can move at their own pace. She also provides modifications for differently-abled people. When the program is completed, participants celebrate together at the end. “It gives families an opportunity to connect via exercise or physical activity,” she says.
Although originally named Raising STRONG Girls Boot Camps, Skrepenski renamed her company to widen its
focus. She still hosts boot camps geared toward girls, as well as Raising STRONG Kids programs at schools and for local organizations.
Skrepenski offered further insights into her girl empowerment work.
Why did the boot camp format appeal to you?
Boot camp is where people go to struggle. They usually go in as
individuals and leave as a team. It’s based on my military experience. The great thing about the [boot camp] style is that you can do it anywhere and you don’t need any extra equipment.
Why is it important to teach girls teamwork at a young age?
The younger they are when they realize this, the better they can make friends that allow them to feel supported and connected. When we teach girls the power of supporting each other and how much better you can feel by bringing people into the fold instead of pushing them away, it is life-changing.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing girls today?
Mean girls are a thing, and they start early.
At elementary-school age, they just want to feel like they fit in and are accepted. Teaching them skills that help them feel good about themselves and connect with others is valuable.
In middle school, it turns to, “I wish I felt good about myself, was prettier, smarter” — whatever it might be. If I catch them in middle school, I teach them the value of changing that inner voice.
How can we actively listen to our daughters?
Asking your kids permission to give them advice is huge, instead of saying “here’s how to fix that.” Instead of lecturing or correcting, take a step back and ask them, “do you want me to give you some advice on how I would work that … or would you like me just to listen?”
One great way to do that is during car rides, over a meal or grabbing dessert. It’s amazing that if you start with simple questions, [the conversation] continues to grow and spill out.
Check the Raising STRONG Boot Camps website raisingstrongbootcamps.com or Facebook page for information on upcoming boot camps that will be hosted at schools, camps and with other family organizations.
Top Affirmations You Can Give Your Daughter
- I’m strong, mentally and physically.
- I’m brave. I’m fierce.
- I am beautiful (not I’m pretty). It helps you recognize something inside of yourself that isn’t anywhere else.
“‘No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls’ by Katie Hurley
is such a good book. You can turn the audiobook on and listen with them. It has activities alongside it, and my daughters loved it,” says Skrepenski.
She also recommends:
- “ The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self ” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
- “Girls Who Run the World: 31 CEOs who Mean Business” by Diana Kapp
- “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” by Elana Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
- “Big Life Journal: Growth Mindset for Kids & Teens” by Alexandra Eidens