Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee is a character development program for grades 3 through 8 and is available to girls in the eight eastern counties of Tennessee.
Teaching young girls about health, body image and values isn’t easy. Combine these serious lessons with running, and a one-of-a-kind after school program emerges.
Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee is a character development program for grades 3 through 8 and is available to girls in the eight eastern counties of Tennessee. Since 2006, Girls on the Run has experienced much success with the blending of emotional and physical education.
“At this age, little girls are faced with so many issues,” said Jessica Thomas, co-council director for Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee. “We can all think back to when we were this age.”
About 423 pairs of tennis shoes hit the pavement twice each week. The program has 29 teams, many of them based at participating schools. The young female runners stay after school for an hour and a half, which is just enough time for a lesson and running.
“We’re teaching our young girls to have confidence in themselves and to not let anyone hold them back,” said Ani Boyd, co-council director for Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee.
As they learn about themselves, the girls train for a 5K over a 12-week period. It takes about 100 volunteer coaches to teach the three phases of the curriculum, while simultaneously preparing the girls for a 3.1-mile race.
“A big part is having very supportive adults mentoring the girls,” Thomas said.
First the girls focus inward in the “All About Me” portion of the curriculum. They study nutrition, emotions and values. Next is “Building My Team,” including lessons on topics like gossiping, bullying and sportsmanship.
The final phase of the program is “Community Begins With Me.” Each Girls on the Run team plans and implements its own community service project.
The program also trains its participants to accept and encourage one another.
“Some people in the group may not all like each other, but we stress the importance of respect and learning how to appreciate the differences of not being the same,” Boyd said. “It empowers girls to embrace who they are and their quirks and love each other.
The increased self-confidence that results from being a part of Girls on the Run is infectious. So much so, Boyd and Thomas say, that the program has gotten off the ground by word of mouth. It’s grown from 16 young runners in 2006 to a projected 1,100 next year between the fall and springs seasons.
The program’s biggest fundraisers are the culminating 5K races that are held at the end of each season. Plus, the co-council directors do a lot of grant writing and rely on the kindness of business and individual donors.
Boyd and Thomas say they don’t want anyone to miss an opportunity to participate in Girls on the Run, so they’re always ready to train a new team and help them get started.
The after-school program is currently in the latter portion of its spring season, which will end with the Spring 5K Color Splash on May 19 at Milligan College, beginning at 2 p.m. The race is open to public and will feature a Junior Color Splash. Volunteers will throw colored powder on the runners’ race day T-shirts.
To register, or for more information about Girls on the Run, visit www.stronggirlsrun.com or call 502-6910.