Girls’ program in city shines positive light for students

Girls on the Run, a nationally based youth development program for girls in Grades 3 through 8, is still relatively new in Bartholomew County and the surrounding areas.

However, its growth is a good measure of the impact it has.

The program started in Columbus in 2008 through Foundation For Youth. Only five girls participated the first year.

Since then, Girls on the Run has taken root and grown steadily — 14 girls in 2009, 59 in 2011 and now about 250. One of the keys to its success was elementary schools forming their own teams. Columbus’ success with Girls on the Run has provided a template for other communities. Last fall, the program was expanded to Brown and Jackson counties.

Now, Franklin is trying to establish a branch of the national program, which began in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The growth is fueled by the positive benefits young girls experience.

That’s important because girls in fifth and sixth grade often begin to have issues with peer pressure, self-esteem and self-image.

Girls on the Run has curriculum that pairs running with the lessons of growing up, such as teaching girls how they can be themselves.

Healthy decision making, friend-ship and goal setting are examples of focus areas.

At the end of the program, girls complete a 5K run, although the emphasis is on teamwork and not competition. Some teams even dress in costumes or theater makeup and run as a group.

Girls are coached by volunteers and attend practices weekly, where they follow a curriculum with a different topic each time and participate in a game centered around that topic.

Those topics might include being grateful, managing emotions, picking friends, bullying and nutrition.

The girls then head outside and do some warmup exercises and running to help them prepare for the 5K.

Girls on the Run has a proven record of success in helping girls navigate the minefield of development issues.

We commend those seeking to start a local program and wish them success.

How to participate

Girls on the Run in Bartholomew, Brown and Jackson counties is starting its spring program now. The program is offered through Foundation for Youth.

To register: Call 812-372-7867 or go online at foundationforyouth.com/spotlight/girlsontherun and click the Register Online tab on the right side of the page.

Locations: Click on the Locations tab on the right side of the Web page for a list of schools/locations. You can pick any location that works with your child, regardless of what school they attend.

Notable: Girls on the Run will participate in the Foundation For Youth 5K on June 7.

Cost: $40 per girl. Girls receive a running journal, water bottle, T-shirt and entry into the 5K. Sliding fee scholarships available to those who qualify.

If you are interested in coaching or would like more information about the program: Contact Jen Shaver by email at jennifer@foundationforyouth.com or by calling 812-348-4558, ext. 200.