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Fostering Confidence and Self-Esteem in Young Girls

BIO Girls Provides Girls With the Tools to Navigate Adolescence and Beyond

Article by Katie Jenison

Photography by Karianna Photography

Originally published in Fargo Lifestyle

We live in a digital age, and it’s no secret that social media can contribute to insecurity and confidence issues, especially in young girls. With Instagram models and influencers dominating our screens, it’s more important than ever to teach young women how to be comfortable in their own skin. Founded by Missy Heilman in 2013, BIO Girls aims to do just that.

Heilman, who serves as the Executive Director, notes, “62% of girls suffer from low self-esteem. Research shows that self-esteem is highest in girls at age nine and then plummets to a low at age 12. BIO Girls works with participants during this vital point of development, before they hit the low point, to provide a ‘self-confidence’ toolbox that can be accessed as they navigate adolescence. Positive self-esteem is proven to contribute to better health, positive social behavior and decisions, is a predictor of academic success, and is tied to job satisfaction in adulthood.”

With a mission to improve the self-esteem of adolescent girls through the empowerment of self and service to others, BIO Girls offers a 12-week program for girls in grades two through six. The program uses three techniques proven to positively impact self-esteem: mentoring, physical activity, and a proprietary life-skills curriculum. Each element of the program is designed to work in harmony with one another and provide the girls with tools to overcome body issues and struggles with self-confidence.

Studies suggest that adolescents with a non-familial role model tend to have higher self-esteem than those without. BIO Girls connects participants with mentors who help teach them necessary life-skills. The mentors lead small group sessions and discussions on topics such as self-care, healthy relationships, kindness, and leadership. The discussions encourage real conversations and form long-lasting relationships between the participants and mentors. By practicing the skills they learn during each session and throughout the program, the girls can cement those skills for use now and in the future.

Non-competitive and all-inclusive physical activity is also an essential piece of the curriculum, as it reinforces life skills like accountability, goal setting, and dealing with challenges. When BIO Girls first began, the only physical activity offered was running. However, the organization recently began piloting other activities, including dance, yoga, CrossFit, and golf. Mentors are there to offer motivation and guidance as the girls work towards accomplishing a physical activity goal by the end of each session. The non-competitive nature of the program emphasizes that physical activity can be used as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. 

BIO Girls has seen tremendous success over the last seven years. By 2013, the organization grew from one location to three, serving approximately 100 girls. Today, BIO Girls serves over 2,000 girls across 53 locations in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

Funding for BIO Girls is two-fold. Though BIO Girls has a registration fee for participants, the organization primarily relies on support from businesses, foundations, and individuals through donations and fundraising efforts. Donations not only cover the overhead costs but also make it more affordable for participants. Heilman explains, “The all-in cost of one BIO Girl participant is $212, but we keep the participant registration fee intentionally low at $65 to help eliminate the hurdle that often comes from inflated registration fees.”

In 2019, BIO Girls held its first annual gala, which featured Olympian speaker, Carrie Tollefson. The 2020 BIO Girls Gala will take place on October 2nd. In addition to the gala, BIO Girls is set to host its first-ever 5K and youth run, Find Your Kind, on May 16th. The youth run will be 0.62 miles to represent the 62% of adolescent girls who battle low self-esteem. To find out more about these upcoming events and how you can support BIO Girls, visit

4151 38th St. S Suite A, Fargo