A group of Bethlehem Central High School students smile as they paint during a previous Girls Night Out. Submitted photo
BETHLEHEM — Girls Night Out is a hit with students.
A free event to promote a healthy lifestyle and camaraderie among high school girls, Girls Night Out (GNO) has doubled, then tripled in participation since the program began four years ago.
The next GNO will be held this Friday, Feb. 26, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Bethlehem Central High School.
“It’s a really fun night about girls being girls having a night of camaraderie and a lot of fun,” said event organizer, BCHS Assistant Principal Heather Culnan.
Girls learn to cook a new, healthy dish, take a zumba or yoga class, take on a painting project, and this year attendees will learn self-defense and skin care from a local esthetician.
“The girls really love zumba so we brought that back this year, as well as the oil painting class we held last year. And the healthy snacking class we have every year,” said Culnan, listing a few of her plans for this year.
Culnan was quick to point out that putting on GNO has been a collaborative effort from the start. “It’s a lot of teachers and students at the school who help organize and promote it. Then we reach out to parents and Bethlehem business owners as much as we can,” said Culnan, who mentioned this year’s keynote speaker Jacki Morse Kessler, a Delmar-based fantasy novel author, as one such example.
It’s these parents, teachers and sometimes students that teach that night’s lessons, and then business donations are sought for a large raffle. Each girl usually walks away with at least one prize, like a YMCA or 360 Fit membership, a free class at The Yoga Loft or Delmar Health Hut or a spa gift card.
Clearly, the concept has been a hit, as over 200 girls have signed up for this year’s GNO – up from a respectable 60 people who attended the first year.
“It started small, but each year its been building up,” said Kelly Ciavardoni, a fellow event organizer and teacher at BCHS. “Honestly, in the beginning it was the word of mouth. We had a great idea from Heather [Culnan],” who held the event in Schuylerville and Colonie Central high schools before bringing it to Bethlehem when she became assistant principal.
“Then we sat down with a couple of really great kids – girls who were leaders in the community – not just athletes, but girls from student senate, from clubs and all over Bethlehem.”
Those original girls continued to spearhead the project, and as they got older and readied for graduation, GNO to them became their personal legacy on the school, described Ciavardoni. “They were the ones who were really pushing it.” And, because this message of endorsement came from their peers, the event continued to get traction.
“My first time at Girls’ Night Out made me regret missing the years before,” said Lexi Trikoulis, a senior at BCHS who attended the event last year alongside 130 other students. That year’s yoga, hair and makeup tips and smoothies and popcorn making were some of her favorite activities of the night.
“It’s one of the things that girls look forward to all year,” said Ciavardoni. “We get to see the girls in a different light and the girls get to see their teachers in a different light. It truly is girl’s night out, with a very fun, supportive atmosphere,”
Funds for some of these classes, like for the canvasses used in art class and for the ingredients for the cooking class come from donations from Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited, Bethlehem Central Community Organization and others. To make a raffle donation for next year, email firstname.lastname@example.org.