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Photo courtesy of Dudley Elementary School
Dudley Elementary School's Girls on the Run program teaches girls more than how to run a 5K. It teaches self-confidence and promotes healthy habits.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Programs on how to complete a 5K race have been popping up everywhere these days. But one program, for girls only, teaches more than that.
Girls on the Run is an international program that, according to its website, was founded in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C., with 13 girls. The group's mission is to "inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running."
For the past two years, Dudley Elementary School has offered the program to girls in grades 3 through 5. When she first heard about GOTR, Dudley guidance counselor Allison Weaver reached out to the nearest GOTR council (offered through the Martinsville-Henry County YMCA) and asked about how she could get a group started.
"It sounded like a perfect match with my role as a guidance counselor," Weaver said.
In that first year, 15 girls signed up to participate with Weaver and Tambi Gunnell, Dudley's computer lab teacher, serving as coaches. This year, 20 girls signed up, and a third coach, fifth-grade teacher Lisa Thornton, joined the program.
"The positive is that we're reaching so many girls," said Weaver. "We had a number of girls repeating the program [from the previous year]."
Every Tuesday and Thursday, after the final school bell rings, the girls get together for a discussion-based lesson, followed by a physical activity, Weaver said. Lessons are geared to teaching healthy behaviors, positive emotional and physical development, and self-confidence.
"We talk about being a girl of high quality and good character, and to give them confidence," said Weaver. "We teach them about values and good healthy habits, both physical and emotional."
That includes teaching the girls how to respond to peer pressure, gossip and bullying.
With the discussion-based lesson still fresh in their minds, the girls head outside for warm-up stretches before they begin their physical activity on the school's track. And while running isn't necessarily the main driver, movement is.
"Even if they've never run before, we teach the girls to keep moving forward," said Weaver. "That can be running, jogging, walking or skipping - as long as they're moving forward all the time without stopping."
Through the program, Weaver said she's enjoyed getting to know the girls on a more personal level.
"It's really about building positive relationships with the girls," she said.
According to its website, each year more than 130,000 girls in more than 200 cities participate in GOTR programs throughout North America. Locally, there are two elementary schools in Franklin County - Dudley and Boones Mill - that offer GOTR.
The program is growing in Bedford County, but it's not made it to schools at Smith Mountain Lake, said Mary Hansen, who directs the Girls on the Run Central Virginia council.
"While we have a strong presence in the Forest area, we are just gradually working our way out from there. As of yet, we do not have any teams near SML, although we would love to have them join us," Hansen wrote in an email. "I think, as the program becomes more familiar to the outlying areas of Bedford, Roanoke and Franklin counties, we will be able to build a strong presence."
At the end of each 12-week program, the girls complete a 5K race. This year's event for the Dudley group will be held Dec. 14 at Martinsville Speedway.
For more information about Girls on the Run, visit www.girlsontherun.org.
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