FRESNO, California (KGPE) — At first glance, the gathering of 12 to 14-year-old girls at Fightgirl Fitness in Fresno may look like an average kickboxing class, but while trainers say the focus of the training is on fitness, the lessons go far beyond form and repetitions.
Fresno Police Officer Lindsay Dozier, who developed the idea for the class, says the ages catered to by the lessons are those when girls are most at risk for being runaways, victims of human trafficking, and exposure to drugs.
Dozier says staying busy can be the key to neutralizing those risks.
“If I could just get those girls, build that self-esteem, and hopefully prevent them from getting involved in any of those things,” Dozier says. “I will be very happy with the success of the program.”
Dozier reached out to schools, and via social media to find girls who wanted to take part in the program. Molly Palacios, seventh-grader from Baird Middle School, took Dozier up on the offer.
“I didn’t think I was that strong until I started doing kickboxing and punching the bags,” said Palacios. “I found how strong I am.”
As did Aviona King, sixth grader from Edison Bethune Charter Academy.
“I wanted to show other girls that they could be strong enough to defend themselves,” King said.
When Dozier realized she couldn’t coach the class by herself, she put out the call to other female police officers. Melanie Mayo, Fresno Police Sergeant, answered the call.
“I think what we hope to teach the girls, or maybe model for the girls, is an inner strength,” Mayo explained. “The ability to rely on yourself and just to know that you can succeed at anything you try.”
Fourteen girls have been paired with a mentor, a female officer who acts as their trainer and educator in what girl power is all about.
“Girl power means we’re no different than men,” King said.
“All the girls are with you and you’re not alone, no matter what,” added Palacios.
Organizers of the free program are hoping to expand it this summer, opening up the club to the general public.