More than 80 girls from throughout the area have spent the last 12 weeks gaining a sense of self-awareness and achievement that will help them become self-confident for the rest of their lives. The Girls on the Run program, initiated in their schools, cumulates with a 5K run on May 21.
"I hope these girls realize they all have abilities they don't recognize in themselves," GOTR Council Director Terry Evans said. "They are strong, confident and capable."
Evans is the council director for Barbour, Randolph and Tucker counties, as well as a program coach at Tucker Valley Elementary/Middle School.
Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run
Girls on the Run Coach Lorren Lesch leads students at North Elementary in exercises designed to help the young girls complete a 5K run. The GOTR program has expanded to five area schools with 83 girls participating in the program.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Anthony Gaynor
Girls on the Run students at Midland Elementary School surround coach Linda Shaw as she hands out six bracelets to each girl. The girls were then sent on a six-lap run around the Elkins High School track. The students would remove one bracelet for each lap completed.
The council was originally formed in 2007 with the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA providing the site for the program, according to Evans. Over the next several years, sites were added in Barbour and Tucker counties, and this spring it expanded to the five schools with 83 girls participating.
The program is also being used at North, Midland, George Ward and Third Ward Elementary schools in Randolph County.
Evans said the 12-week, 24-lesson curricula is aimed at empowering girls with a greater sense of self-awareness, sense of achievement and a foundation in team building. The program also helps build a commitment to enhance communities.
"All of which helps them become strong, self-confident woman prepared for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living," she said. "They also learn how important it is to support each other, so all members of the team can be successful. I also really hope they realize that they can be healthy and athletic, without feeling pressured to be a member of a 'team' sport."
During each session, the girls participating in the program change into appropriate running clothing. Each lesson has a topic and is divided into activities with specific functions to enhance the learning process.
"Each lesson starts with the topic introduction followed by a 'Getting on Board' activity which brings the girls focus to the topic of the day," Evans said. "The girls then do a 'warm-up' activity, which again focuses on the day's topic, but does so while warming up their muscles, joints and cardiovascular system."
Evans said a "processing" question-and-answer time follows the warm-up activity where the girls stretch and specific questions are asked to bring out the relevance of the warm-up activity to the topic.
"The goal of processing is to help the girls make connections between the lessons and their individual lives," she said. "A fun 'work-out' activity follows where the girls complete goal-oriented running games."
Through the 12-week program the length of the girls' workout is increased so they are physically prepared to complete a practice 5K run by the eighth week. Each lesson concludes with the girls answering final "processing" questions related to the workout activity while they complete "cool-down" stretching.
"Each session will 'wrap up' with coaches expressing positive comments about individual and group behaviors," she said. "The wrap up also includes energy awards that recognize positive individual and group behavior, a closing cheer and a healthy snack."
During the week of May 2, students at Midland and North Elementary schools learned about advertisements and the messages they send to young girls. GOTR coaches at North, Lorren Lesch and Mary Smakula, led the discussion. As the girls broke off into groups to discuss various advertisements, Lesch and Smakula assisted each group with the lesson.
"It has been really interesting watching them internalize the message," Lesch said. "At this age girls can get lost. We are teaching them to stand up for themselves and be understanding with other women."
Midland Coach Lori DiBacco said the program encourages the girls to build self-confidence and teaches them to complete a 5K run.
"They have been very enthusiastic," she said. "They learned that running was more of a challenge than they thought it would be at first."
Evans said she hopes the students realize they all have abilities they don't recognize in themselves.
"They are strong, confident and capable," she said.
On May 21 the program will come to its completion with a 5K run. The "Roundhouse Rumble" is sponsored by GOTR and Davis Health System. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. with the run kicking off at 10 a.m. The race is open to anyone who wants to run or walk around the streets of Elkins.
"The 5K run marks the completion of the 12-week session," Evans said. "It is a time for the girls, their families, coaches and the community to celebrate this awesome achievement. Running a 5K is no easy task. It is so remarkable how proud these girls are at the finish - it is truly uplifting to see them succeed. The 5K run is also a way to publicize the program throughout the community, recruit corporate sponsors, recruit additional coaches, and as a fundraiser."
Evans said the run will also host the Davis Health System's Couch-to-5K participants. She said GOTR alumni and members of the Belington Public Library Walking Group will also participate.
"Our hope is that all those girls will participate, however we know there will be scheduling conflicts," she said. "Hopefully, we will have 60 girls, 18 coaches and lots and lots of runners and walkers and spectators to support the girls and the program."
She said the race route is new this year and will begin and end in River Bend Park. She said runners and walkers will loop around the Elkins Town Square, run past the historic location of the old roundhouse in the railyard before crossing the Tygart River at the swinging bridge and heading back toward the park.
Evans said for the program to be successful they are in need of sponsors, coaches, assistant coaches, volunteers at the race and a consistent funding source.
"We would like this program to be available to all girls ages 8-13 within the Barbour, Randolph and Tucker County areas," Evans said. "A lofty goal, but definitely attainable with additional community support."
Evans said the program focuses on girls because young girls, ages 8 to 13, are still receptive to what adults say and are not yet feeling the pull of peer pressure.
"In GOTR, we place the emphasis on independent thinking, the importance of making healthy choices, healthy group dynamics and problem solving," she said. "The curriculum stresses peer support and doing one's best and rejects defeating others or exerting power over others."
Evans said if anyone is interested in starting a GOTR site they may call her at 304-642-5787 or email Katie Wolpert at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the program can found at girlsontherun.org or the local web site www.wvmtr.org/events/gotr.