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Gamma Girls—a Going Concern
A program that gives young teens with little or no sense of self-worth and personal value an opportunity to look outside of themselves for validation.

In September 2002, Jill Kulhawy of the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre wondered whether there was enough interest for her new pilot program for teenage girls. Only three names were registered for the first session of Gamma, a brilliant ten-week program written from scratch by Kulhawy, Lynette Stokhyuyzen and chartered psychologist Geri Fitch.

The three women were so strongly committed to the idea of improving the self image and sense of value of girls 13 to 15 that they were going to run with whoever showed up.

Nineteen girls came the first day, and the program proved to be such a hit that it spread like wildfire through churches in Western Canada and was launched nationwide this fall.

"It provides short-term mentorship to help girls better navigate the teen years," said Kulhawy, who feels driven to improve how teenage girls see and value themselves.

"It's peer support rather than peer pressure."

As community education director for the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre, Kulhawy teaches abstinence programs in junior and senior high school classrooms.

She has seen first hand how unwanted pregnancy is a symptom of a greater problem; young women with little or no sense of self-worth and personal value looking outside themselves for validation. She wanted to do more to address the underlying problem, and had a vision of a safe place where girls could discuss their trials and tribulations, and the difficult issues surrounding young girls today, with non-judgmental teaching and direction from trained facilitators. The Church was such a place.

Kulhawy said that while the first programs were running in the fall of 2002 at Westside King's Church and First Alliance Church in Calgary, they were writing and re-writing each session as they went along.

By the time they were ready to offer Gamma Girls again, more churches were asking to host the program, and more enthusiastic facilitators were stepping up for training.

We've been told that girls have a higher degree of empathy toward each other after taking the course," Kulhawy explained. "Gamma Girls works because each young woman learns that God unconditionally values them and that through Him they are totally empowered to make great choices for their lives."

She borrowed the term "gamma girls" from a Newsweek article written by Laura Sessions Stepp of the Washington Post. She described groups of girls that were not the alpha girls (the Queen Bee), or the betas (the wannabe) but a separate culture (the gamma girls).

"They're not mean. They like their parents. They're smart, confident and think popularity is overrated. They don't sit around longing to be invited to parties—they're too busy living their own lives," said Kulhawy.

She described gamma girls as emotionally healthy, socially secure, independent-minded and just plain nice. Their sense of self is nurtured by supportive, ever present parents and their values are bolstered by open discussion at church and a strong faith.

After four years of fine tuning, Gamma Girls is now available on DVD, although Kulhawy prefers to teach the course to church facilitators in person. Information is available at

Originally published in City Light News, November 2006.




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