Girls in grades 4-8 participate in this 10-week program that focuses on self-esteem, positive self-talk, relationships ... and moving these skills into the world in collaboration and community service.
by Kathy Magnuson
The name sounds like a sports program and it is - and so much more. Girls in grades 4-8 are eligible to participate in this 10-week program. Each weekly session includes a curriculum that focuses on self-esteem and positive self-talk; relationships and how to be a friend and choose a friend; and also moving these skills into the world in collaboration and community service.
A community service project developed by one group included an appreciation program for the lunch staff at their school with home-baked cookies, thank you notes and shout-outs to the lunch staff in the school announcements. Another group made gifts for residents at a nursing home.
The program aims to build a giving-back attitude, confidence and character. In the exercise portion of the program, girls learn about their bodies and that they can do challenging activities. They may not arrive with running skills, but they set short-term goals to achieve the long-term goal of running a 5K. Those goal-setting skills are transferred into life skills, such as learning that physical activity can be an outlet for stress management.
Each season Girls on the Run needs about 550 "women on the run," or at least women willing to volunteer to make the program go forward in the spring and fall. Volunteers do not need to have a background in coaching or sports - some women have run their first 5K along with the girls. Volunteer head coaches meet with girls two times a week for 90 minutes; assistant coaches may participate one or two times a week. If that is too much time, running buddies are also needed the day of the 5K to run with each girl.
Lakeisha Claiborne has been a coach for three seasons, and will return in spring 2018. She was introduced to the program when she saw her niece go from being shy and quiet to having the confidence to "push herself a little more and try new things."
Claiborne was a runner, but had never participated in a race. The 2016 spring 5K was her first, right along with the girls. "I love being a coach and seeing the girls go from nervous to confident, trying new things and being leaders," Claiborne says.
"Coaches are role models and mentors. They are adults in the girls' lives outside of parents or teachers," Uran says. "They model what happy, healthy women are like."
FFI: This year's 5K run is Nov. 11 at Harriet Island, St. Paul. Interested in volunteering in an existing program or starting a program at your neighborhood school or community center?www.gotrtwincities.org Volunteer applications are being taken for this fall's program: www.gotrtwincities.org/Volunteer