By Catie Santos
Many college students find it impossible to live a healthy, fit lifestyle. Morgan Simpson is not one of your typical college students.
Not only does she live a healthy lifestyle, she also encourages and inspires other girls to do so as well. Simpson, 22, has spent much of the last year getting a new health organization for girls, CHAARG, up and running on LSU’s campus.
“CHAARG” stands for “Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls” and is a national organization founded in 2012 at Ohio State University. Now, it has 14 chapters across the nation as well as a virtual chapter online. CHAARG’s motto is “liberating girls from the elliptical since 2012,” and the organization strives to help each girl find her own fitness niche – whether that means running, Zumba, yoga, or anything else.
Simpson, who will graduate this May with a psychology major and nutritional sciences minor, first learned about the empowering organization last winter break through a friend at another university with an active chapter and immediately realized it would be a great asset for LSU’s campus. She reached out to the organization about starting a chapter on campus.
After being named LSU’s CHAARG Ambassador, Simpson began preparing to start the new organization on campus last summer and contacted Campus Life. The process seemed simple enough – you need a constitution, 5 founding members, and an advisor – but Simpson quickly ran into a kink when she found out LSU was switching to a new system over the summer and CHAARG wouldn’t be able to officially register as a student organization until the school year started.
Simpson was a little apprehensive about the future of CHAARG once it arrived on campus.
“Whenever I first applied to be the Ambassador, I was focused at getting it at LSU. Once I became Ambassador, I realized I actually have to get people to be as passionate about it as me,” Simpson said. “I wondered, ‘Will people like it or think I’m this crazy girl who works out all the time?’”
Luckily, Simpson’s fears were unfounded – CHAARG’s first semester on campus saw 166 girls join. To put it in comparison, in the same semester several previously-established CHAARG chapters only just reached 100 girls.
So how and why did LSU’s CHAARG find such success? “Once school started, the first two weeks were solely…face-to-face recruiting in Free Speech Alley,” said Simpson. Many girls hadn’t heard of CHAARG, but were eager to learn more and responded positively to health and fitness. “I really needed this,” was the most common response Simpson heard.
“Since LSU doesn’t have a similar organization, girls were very excited to see that because it is so hard to live healthy while in college,” Simpson said.
After the recruitment period ended and LSU’s CHAARG chapter was established, Simpson says the relationships she then saw girls make within the organization “have been unbelievable.” CHAARG members keep in touch through Facebook pages and GroupMe’s, and provide the support and encouragement necessary to help each other maintain healthy lifestyles.
“Girls who wouldn’t be friends with each other or who wouldn’t have met each other without CHAARG because they aren’t involved in the same things now all have a common goal – live a healthy life and better themselves every day,” explained Simpson.
The girls Simpson recruited for CHAARG share her love for the organization and the feeling of community that it builds.
“I joined CHAARG because of my love for health and fitness, but what I didn’t know was how my views of it would change in such a positive way,” says Katie Messina, a senior biology student at LSU. “CHAARG girls don’t just train together, we motivate and inspire each other to try new things, take risks, and support one another,” Messina, 21, explained. “I have never been part of such a tight-knit fitness community, and I learned that that is a huge aspect of being successful in your fitness endeavors.”
Each semester, the national CHAARG does an online “Fit Plan,” a boot camp-type program 5 or 6 weeks filled with weekly challenges, prizes, and the chance to get to know the 600 other girls across the country who are also participating in the Fit Plan.
This past fall, Simpson participated in her first Fit Plan as a member of an active CHAARG chapter. With a busy semester on her plate, she knew she could only work out at 6 a.m. every day – so she extended the 6 a.m. workout invitation to the other members of her chapter, not expecting much of a response.
However, on the first day of the Fit Plan, Simpson and three other CHAARG girls met up at 6 a.m. in the UREC to work out – and it only built up steam from there as the girls posted pictures on Instagram and began calling themselves the “#6AMCrew.” One day, Simpson was thrilled when 15 girls showed up at 6 a.m. ready to work out.
“It was awesome to go from doing the Fit Plan by myself to be doing this with 15 girls in my chapter – these girls want to be involved so heavily with CHAARG!” Simpon said. Because of her success with the #6AMCrew, Simpson was recognized as the national grand prize winner for the fall Fit Plan.
Simpson’s contagious enthusiasm and passion for the organization has clearly spread to the other members, but she remains humble. Under her leadership, many girls went from sedentary lifestyles to now working out up to five days a week. She says she frequently gets texts from girls who say that she inspires them and is amazed by the feedback.
“You all inspire me!” Simpson said, referring to her CHAARG girls. “I’m just here doing this trying to help everyone around me. I don’t think I’m inspiring anyone, I’m just me.”
Anyone who is interested in joining CHAARG can buy a membership online at any point in the semester by going to chaarg.com/shop. On Wednesday, January 28 from 7-9 in the Huey P Long Field House’s Dance Studio, CHAARG will be hosting a “Welcome Party” open to any girl interested in living a healthier lifestyle. The goal of the party is to “reCHAARG” before the busy semester, and they will be serving relaxing tea and leading attendees in restorative yoga and other involving activities.