Girls run toward lifelong skillsA non-profit organization that coaches young girls to develop strong self-worth and that assists in personal development is starting off its year with new leadership.
By: Rebecca Rudolph, The Republican Eagle
A non-profit organization that coaches young girls to develop strong self-worth and that assists in personal development is starting off its year with new leadership.
Bluff Country Girls on the Run was brought to the Red Wing area in the 1999-2000 school year to reach out to third-to-sixth-grade girls.
Katie Ramstad, the new Girls on the Run program director, said that running is a lifelong skill that can be developed through this program.
But running and physical health is not the central focus.
“It’s about developing girls’ self-esteem and confidence at that crucial age where they’re starting to feel insecure about their shape, their size, their weight, etcetera,” said Jo Seton, the new Girls on the Run administrative director.
“Any girl of any physical activity level can be involved. The whole point is to challenge yourself and grow, and hopefully develop an appreciation of physical and mental health, too,” Seton said.
At each of the participating elementary schools, the girls meet every day after school for an hour and a half with at least three coaches over 10 weeks. There is always a head coach who is a female 21 years old or older, a male or female assistant coach who is 18 years old or older, and possibly a female junior coach who is 16 to 18 years old.
These coaches are trained on how to facilitate discussion and how to encourage the girls.
“The girls get to sit in a circle and talk and express themselves verbally in different topic areas, such as self-esteem, being a good friend, anti-bullying and all those things,” Ramstad said.
These topics are broken into three main sections: how to understand yourself, how to value team work, and how to connect with their community and each other. The curriculum is coordinated through the international Girls on the Run organization.
At the end of the session, there is an all-day 5K run event for the girls and the community to attend.
“It’s a real celebration. It’s quite a big goal for some of the girls to manage a 5K. They don’t have to run it. They can run it and walk it; they could hop it if they wanted,” said Seton.
Since Seton and Ramstad are new to leading this organization, they face a variety of challenges this spring.
For Ramstad, who coordinates the volunteers, it has been a challenge to find coaches in all eight area schools where the program is available.
For Seton, “in this economy, nonprofits are being hit pretty hard, so the challenge is to find creative ways to get people to donate or sponsor,” she said.
Despite these challenges, the two are determined to reach out to girls. One of the new ways to ensure the program is open to all girls is the sliding fee scale.
“One thing we want to make very clear is we only want people to pay what they can afford,” Seton said. “We don’t ever want to turn anyone away from this program because it is so good and we want anyone to be able to come.”
This program caught on quickly when it was founded in 1993. The optimism of the new leaders could prove just as contagious.
“I think it’s going to be a great year; I think the girls are going to have a lot of fun and I am very happy to be a part of this program,” Ramstad said.
A 2011 study shows that the lessons provided in the program do help girls maintain higher self-esteem levels after the program.