When I began running I was only running 5k races. I got a flyer for a Wondergirl race and decided to run it. Little did I know how much that one 5K race would change the course of my life.
The race was sponsored by Girls on the Run. It was a 5K to culminate their training program for young girls. I was just running it as another race and because it looked fun. And boy was it fun! The Girl Power that day was overpowering! It was amazing. I was hooked. I had to find out more about this program.
I spent the next year working with and learning more about the Girls on the Run program. I was so excited about the positive messages for all girls that 2 years after running that 5K I was starting my own GOTR program at my own school.
Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. GOTR utilizes a specifically designed tested curriculum for third, fourth and fifth grade girls to enhance the physical, social, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of each participant. The following life lessons are covered in the 10 week program:
• Learning to develop an understanding of ones self
• Setting personal goals for nutrition and exercise
• Understanding the importance of being physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy
• Understanding core values and what makes us unique
• Getting along within a group
• Knowing the importance if listening, assertiveness, and the importance of being positive
• Learning the components of good decision making
• Letting go of negative feelings and situations
• Understanding the nature of social messages we receive through he media and other institutions
• Recognizing the damage the stereotyping, gossip and discriminatory behavior can cause
Each of these lessons is taught while implementing a physical activity. By the end of the 10 weeks, the girls will run/walk 3.1 miles in the WonderGirl 5K fun run. It is the goal that girls will complete the program with a stronger sense of identity, a greater acceptance of themselves, a healthier body image and an understanding of what it means to be part of a team.
We decided as a school that it would be best to start the program for 3rd graders only as there were no extra curricular programs for this age group. We started small, just another teacher and myself and 10 girls. the program has snowballed over 4 years to 40 girls and 6 coaches.
I get excited each time we meet with the girls. They are filled with passion and energy that is explosive and contagious! Watching each girl cross the finish line makes me cry. I relive my own first finish line. I know their lives will never be the same. I know that GOTR not only changes the lives of the girls but of their families as well. Family members see these girls with new eyes. No one is ever the same.
Molly Barker, the founder of GOTR is a visionary. She saw a need and created a lifechanging program to fill that need. Her program changes the direction of so many people…including me. I took the road less traveled…and am forever changed.