Written by Maura Riley, Thrive’s Girls for a Change and Girls on the Run Assistant.
I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for today’s young girls to navigate this crazy world. Every friend they make, picture they post, status they update, and joke they laugh at is judged and scrutinized by everyone around them. Growing up was tough enough, much less adding all the extra pressures our kids deal with on a daily basis. I think we can all agree that, at the end of the day, all parents really want for their children is for them to feel happy; to feel like they have true, honest friends and a safe space they can return to in need of comfort and kindness. That’s our dream for young girls, too.
Five years ago, the Girls for a Change team at Thrive adopted and implemented a program called Girls on the Run to give girls an opportunity to be joyful, healthy, and confident. The curriculum uses creative ways to include running and other activities to promote healthy ways of thinking about everyday life experiences. At the culmination of the ten-week season, all the girls, with a running buddy friend or family member, complete a celebratory 5k. The final 5k and practice 5k are great ways to get the whole family involved in healthy lifestyles, but more importantly, with each other. We also send along a Parent Guide so the whole family can participate in the curriculum conversations at home. Some of the things parents have said about their daughters participating are:
- “My daughter…was warmly welcomed and nurtured.”
- “She has much more of a positive attitude towards running.”
- “My child hopes to do it again next year.”
- “Coaches were enthusiastic and supportive!”
- “It helped her put her thoughts into place and put them into real life situations.”
- “She really enjoyed talking about social things with girls and coaches, which led to some really fun conversations at home.”
The ten-week curriculum gives the girls a chance to work as a team, strengthen their relationships, and build their confidence and voice to help them stand up for themselves and stand out in the world. Built around activities like running, tag, and relay races; the themes start conversations about very real, relevant, and meaningful issues for young girls. Some of the themes you’ll find in the curriculum are:
- Self-Talk Matters
- Untangling our Emotions
- Real Beauty
- Putting an End to Gossip
- Best Friends
- Let’s Cooperate
- It Takes Courage
As great (and necessary) as all these themes are, the best aspect about being part of this program is watching the girls grow. As individuals they find their voice; as teams, they work together; and as community members they learn how to navigate their lives and make this a better world than what they came into. If there is any lesson to be learned, it’s that every single person has “star power” and the girls that come out of this program are a true testament to how much potential our future holds.