EAST MANATEE -- While some elementary school curriculums include physical education, mathematics and science, the soon-to-open Just For Girls Academy in Bradenton will include a distinctive set of courses.
In partnership with the Sarasota-Manatee Association of Riding Therapy and Performance Transformation, a Venice-based company specializing in scientific professional coaching, Just For Girls will offer learning sessions with horses at the SMART facility in East Manatee.
The lessons will be based on equine-facilitated experience learning and a focus on emotional intelligence skills, which will be developed through bonding experiences with horses.
"There is an attraction between girls and horses," said Jennifer Rosenboom, principal of Just For Girls. "It
helps girls relate to their character building. It's part of what we'll do with our school."
On Wednesday, teachers and administrators from Just For Girls Academy were given a demonstration at SMART, led by Terry Murray, managing partner of Performance Transformation. Two future students at the a academy, first-grader Alana Weaver, 6, and kindergartner Madison Rosenboom, 5, teamed with a trio of miniature donkeys to display herding and its connection to trust and nonverbal communication.
In March, Becky Canesse, chief executive officer of Just For Girls Inc., attended the 25th anniversary and house-warming party for SMART. Terry Murray, managing partner of Performance Transformation, gave a speech during the event about his program's success with military veterans and Canesse approached him with an idea.
"I had a vision," Canesse said. "We can put these ideas to practice."
Murray has also offered his program to business groups as team building exercises, along with various community service and nonprofit groups.
"It will build self-esteem," Murray said. "The girl has to learn to lead the horse, which will give her leadership skills. They'll develop healthy boundaries and your awareness goals carry over."
His company works with the Pinellas County Sheriff's office to help women make the transition from incarceration to life on the outside.
"I've seen a lot of people that worked with horses in their youth and they make positive decisions," Murray said. "They don't succumb to peer pressure."
The charter school, which opens later this month, will initially offer classes for kindergarten through the third grade, but will add a grade level each year until the eighth grade. Enrollment at the school is still open.
Murray and the school's administration are in the process of developing the curriculum. The charter school is seeking sponsorship for the program.
"Our school will have a culture of caring," Canesse said.
Said Murray: "Eighty percent of success in life is attributed to emotional intelligence. It's the people skills."
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter: @_1NickWilliams