As an AmeriCorps member with the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Urban Education Service Corps, one of the main roles of the program is to make a positive impact in students’ attendance rates. In addition, members are encouraged to conduct service projects within the school and community. One service project that stuck out to me for Smith Elementary, where I serve, was assisting in facilitating the Girls on the Run (GOTR) program. Now, most people would look at me and say, “But Connor, you’re a guy! How could you facilitate Girls on the Run?” Yes, at first I had the same reaction, but as time moved on, every Monday and Thursday at 3:29 I was anxiously waiting to see the students who I had developed relationships with and the coaches who were some of the sweetest and most caring women that I know. Sure enough, GOTR was a powerful hit!
First, let me give you a bit of background on the program. Girls on the Run is a nationwide, transformational, physical activity based, positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade. The program focuses on teaching life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5k running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment, while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.
In my opinion, every state and school should have a program like Girls on the Run. It is important that we have programs in place that encourage students to learn to be independent, to be creative, to problem solve, and to love themselves. This is exactly the type of vision that Girls on the Run has, and they do it in a way that promotes physical activity, health, and awareness.
My first day facilitating Girls on the Run one of the nicest days of the year, even though I was feeling nervous. What if the coaches didn’t want me? What if I didn’t understand the curriculum? What if the participants didn’t want me there? But as soon as the coaches and the girls walked in the room, I was greeted with nothing but smiles and warm faces. The coaches told me how excited they were for me to help out, and the participants introduced themselves with excitement! We talked about how we can resolve conflict when you are introduced with someone who is fighting with you, and then we ran a couple miles on the field in the schoolyard. It was nice to see how excited the girls were to run; which showed when they got the check on their hand to show they completed a lap and boasted to their friends about how well they were doing.
The program made exercising fun for the students, and everyone was having a blast. The coaches and girls really developed a strong relationship with one another as we focused on addressing issues in the community to the importance of staying away from gossip. In November, we practiced a 5k run, which is 3.2 miles, in preparation for the end of the year 5k which Girls on the Run participants from all Denver schools run in. It was a cold and rainy day, but it didn’t bother anyone. We were all just happy to be outside and helping with the program. The real race was a week after the practice 5k.When that day came it was awesome to see all the people who came out to support this program, as well as the parents from our school that came out to support their kids. Everybody was dressed up and excited, and when the time came to run the girls knocked it out of the park!
Girls on the Run was so memorable to me because it gave me perspective on some of the issues we face socially in our school settings. Also, I made some great new friends with some of the participants, and we got a chance to hangout and really listen to students and learn what they need. Now that Girls on the Run has ended, I think it will resonate with the girls throughout the year, and, ideally, their life. This program was a huge success within Smith Elementary, and if you are reading this and would like to get involved in their program in some way just visit their website; GirlsontheRun.org
– Connor Donahue, AmeriCorps member