Student-led program to fight childhood obesity wins $50K grant

April 28, 2017

Healthy Girls Save the World (HGSW), a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve health outcomes for middle school girls through the promotion of healthy minds, bodies and relationships, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust.

Camille McGirt (photo by Najah Cobb)

Camille McGirt (photo by Najah Cobb)

Camille McGirt, who will complete a Master of Public Health degree in health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in May, is director of the program.

McGirt established the program as an undergraduate, at a time when she was sidelined from sports because of an injury. She wanted to stay active and help other girls develop and maintain healthy lifestyles.

In 2011, The University of North Carolina presented McGirt with the Robert E. Bryan Social Innovation Fellowship for her work, and in 2012, she was one of 17 college students across the state to receive a Community Impact Award for campus-community engagement.

The Kenan Charitable Trust grant will provide $25,000 per year for two years to help HGSW complete its first extensive program evaluation and cover operating expenses for pilot after-school and expanded summer camp programs.

”As a social entrepreneur, I am constantly thinking about how to develop HGSW into a sustainable and thriving organization,” McGirt said. “One of my goals coming back to the Gillings School as a graduate student was to gain skills and knowledge about how to design HGSW into an effective and replicable public health program – and to increase our organizational capacity.”

McGirt said that through the support of her department and other university entities, she was able to work with her team to accomplish those goals.

“We are so grateful for this opportunity,” she said. “We’ll be able to hire staff, obtain an office space in Carrboro (N.C.), complete stronger evaluation and have a positive impact on hundreds of girls in North Carolina.”

Beth Moracco, PhD, research associate professor of health behavior at the Gillings School, said that from the beginning of her time as a master’s student, McGirt had shown extraordinary dedication and focus to improving the lives of girls and young women though healthy lifestyles and self-image.

“We are thrilled that Camille’s commitment has been recognized by the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and that the important work of Healthy Girls Save the World will be expanded,” Moracco said.

The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust was established in 1965 by bequest from the estate of chemist and industrialist William R. Kenan Jr., a native North Carolinian and member of the University of North Carolina class of 1894. Throughout his life, Kenan remained deeply committed to his home state and was an especially generous benefactor to his alma mater. His bequest directed the trust to fund grants for religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu