Dagostino puts the Spirit in new Fit-ness program
by Randy Pascal
Call it the arrival of the perfect program, at just the perfect time.
Since graduating from Laurentian University into the teaching profession back in 2001, Chantal (Grégoire) Dagostino has seen her career as an
athlete undertake a metamorphosis of sorts.
A member of the highly successful Lady Vees basketball tradition during her time at L.U., the native of Victoriaville (P.Q.) was thrilled to move
quickly into her first teaching job at St Charles College, a site she's now called home for the past 13 years.
"I picked up running about 12 years ago," explained Dagostino. "I had become a teacher, and I needed something to do outside of the classroom, on my
schedule. Running came into my life, and has now opened some doors for me."
But not just for her. While training for one of her marathon adventures - Dagostino has covered the 42km distance six times now, and will run the
Boston Marathon for the first time this April - the physical educator decided to throw a curve ball at her female students, giving them the choice of
writing a report on a particular project, or actually participating and living said project.
The goal was the have the girls complete a five kilometer run, an undertaking that could be completed by the masses, and not just those lifelong
athletes. "When I asked them for feedback afterwards, I gathered from them that there was something missing from the training," she said.
"We didn't have any logs or journals. I was sure that there must be a program out there that offers what I was looking for," Dagostino continued. But it
only after a chance discussion with a Laurentian co-hort where Dagostino would stumble across FitSpirit, a "Girls in Motion" initiative that
originated in Quebec in 2007.
Targetted to young ladies between the ages of 12 and 17, the FitSpirit mission revolves around helping teenage girls discover the advantages and
enjoyment that come from taking part in a physical acitivity in a non-competitive environment.
Ironically, the pragmatic roll-out of the FitSpirit experience parallels the one that Dagostino had introduced at the home of the Cardinals, an eight
to ten week venture that would culminate in a five kilometer run or walk.
"It is geared towards all girls, but we are really trying to trigger the ones that are not active," stated Dagostino. "We want them to be active, to feel
good about themselves, to have a positive self-image."
Trying to convince their constituency of the realistic possibilities is no easy task. "They often see themselves as not being able to do this, that they
simply don't believe they can complete this task," said Dagostino.
"I try and support them, to be with them side by side, give them the tools to success." In fact, though the "just under forty" bundle of energy might
accumulate weekly running mileage that equals that of her entire school complement combined, it's not the least bit unusual to see Dagostino strolling
alongside those at the back of the pack, helping keep their minds off the activity they are completing.
"For the non-athlete, the accomplishment is just to finish it," she noted. While the natural pool of talent initially came from her own school, Dagostino
quickly recruited another ten or so elementary and secondary staff members, willing to jump aboard, with the grouping that will start training next month
now numbering more than 200 young ladies.
"When I saw the opportunity for the girls at my school, I also saw the opportunity for all girls," she said. "That's why I took on a leadership role with
this task." It's a near perfect "Fit", with Dagostino more than willing to provide the "Spirit" on a local level.