Heavy Lifting with Our Girls: Workshops Promote Strong Minds and Bodies for Tweenage Girls

The Tweenage years are the worst…and the best…depending on the day (or hour, or minute). Mothers of tween girls will agree that this stage in young girls’ lives can be the most challenging-for everyone- and new research supports our experiences. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recently declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health, as rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts have skyrocketed during the pandemic. But youth mental health had been deteriorating for some time before the pandemic, as psychologists like me have been noticing for at least 10 years,” writes Jelena Kecmanovic. A new local initiative aims to address this crisis by giving 10-12 year old girls the tools they need to build foundations of strong minds and bodies through these formative years.

The Strong Minds and Strong Bodies Workshops, offered by directors Mandy Kirsch, Alexis Kroah, and Angeline Wellock and funded by Rayl Charitable Organization, “are designed for girls 10-12 years old to help them discover the power of a healthy mind-body connection. Growth mindset activities combined with a variety of low impact physical exercises will focus on “the strength of positivity, empowerment, and resiliency.”

Inspiration Behind the Workshops

For director Angeline Wellock, B.S, MA.Ed, the inspiration for these workshops is personal. 

“Middle School was a very challenging time for me.  I had very low self-esteem, zero confidence, and was regularly bullied for being overweight. If I close my eyes, and travel back to middle school, instantly I can remember the terrible feeling of not being ‘athletic enough’, ‘skinny enough’, ‘popular enough’, ‘smart enough’ the list goes on and on.  I remained silent, and disguised my pain, always feeling that no one would understand, or no one could possibly be feeling the same way as I did.”

As the mother of a tween daughter, Angeline wants to provide girls with the tools to overcome anxieties and insecurities, in a safe space where they can feel heard and validated. This was the driving force behind the Strong Minds and Strong Bodies workshops.

“These workshops can help girls understand how to discover the power of a healthy mind-body connection and that it is possible, even during those challenging middle school years.  I want them to learn about the strength of positivity, empowerment, and resiliency in hopes that they won’t face some of the challenges I did.  Above anything else, I want them to walk away from the workshop believing they are ENOUGH.”

Initiative Partnership

Angeline partnered with the other programs’ directors, who bring both expertise and experience. 

Lexi Kroah, Director of Sports Performance at 4.40 in North Canton, where the Wellock family of 5 all train, understands the importance of the mind-body connection.  She also has an amazing gift of connecting with others and guiding them into believing in themselves to accomplish their goals.  

Mandy Kirsch is a licensed therapist with the Akron Family Institute and familiar with adolescent counseling. Mandy has provided research based resources to help workshop attendees cope with struggles they might face during the middle school years and beyond.  

Beth Rayl, President of Rayl Charities, approached Angeline last year about a new initiative focused on developing youth programs for surrounding communities. Rayl Charities community mission includes  programs for First Responders and the Kindness for Kids Program, which funds local students and teachers.  Beth has been beyond supportive of the mission for “Strong Minds and Strong Bodies,”  and has been a crucial partner in the development of these workshops.

Parental Connection

“The tween ages are a very confusing time. Bodies are changing, hormones are heightened. Friends start to get ‘cliquey,’ but if we can teach these girls how to have a positive mindset and get ahead of some of these challenges, maybe we can make the middle school years easier,” reflects Wellock.

Angeline and her husband, Austin, are currently parenting their daughter, Ava, through her tween years. They feel it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and hope that Ava knows she can come to them with her concerns. When she encounters a challenge, they try to stay positive with her while asking, “What did we learn from that?”  

Angeline notes, “I think for all of us parents it’s most challenging to show support when things are difficult, picking them up when they are down, keeping them grounded, and letting them know how to battle through adversity and learn from it.”

Workshop Details

The Strong Minds and Strong Bodies workshops embody this combination of positivity and resilience. They seek to create an open, accepting, and safe environment for girls to explore approaches to everyday challenges while building self-esteem. The girls will engage in growth mindset activities including a variety of low impact physical exercises, team building activities, small group conversations, and journal writing in the “Big Life Journal” that each girl will leave with as a gift.

Angeline and her partners are confident that each girl will leave with:

  • understanding how important it is to have a positive mindset, 
  • coping skills when dealing with challenging situations, 
  • discovering the power of their brain and how to turn their negative self-talk into positive and empowering affirmations

The Strong Mind, Strong Body Workshops are NO COST to participants, but space is limited for this 3 workshop series. Each workshop will be different, so you can sign your tween up for just one or all 3. To sign up, follow the directions below:

If you have any questions or need more information, contact Angeline Wellock at


 Author’s Note: Angeline’s daughter, Ava, is a soccer teammate and friend of my daughter, Lucia.  Ava is an absolute delight and the Wellocks are a wonderful family. This creates a bit of positive bias on my part, but I’m confident tweenage girls will benefit from this amazing program.



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