July 21, 2017
School & Youth
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  • This year, Severna Park Elementary School’s 19-member Girls on the Run team learned life skills through interactive lessons and dynamic running games.
    This year, Severna Park Elementary School’s 19-member Girls on the Run team learned life skills through interactive lessons and dynamic running games.

Severna Park Girls On The Run Cross Program Finish Line At Annual 5K

Judy Tacyn
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May 3, 2017

More than 1,000 girls participate at one of the 62 Girls on the Run program sites in Maryland. Approximately half the program sites are in Anne Arundel County. Folger McKinsey and Severna Park elementary schools both participate in the Greater Chesapeake GOTR Council in the in the third- through fifth-grade program.

Certified coaches and assistants teach the girls life skills through interactive lessons and dynamic running games. At the end of each three-month session, a celebratory, noncompetitive 5K “race” is held.

On Saturday, April 22, the Greater Chesapeake Council celebrated the completion of the spring 2017 season with a 5K run in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.

Ashley Alberti is a third-grade teacher at Folger McKinsey Elementary School, and she also serves as a GOTR head coach. Alberti said there are between 15 and 20 runners on the Folger team, which has been a GOTR school since 2009.

Katie McCord is a counselor at Severna Park Elementary School and GOTR head coach of the school’s 19-member team. “A couple years ago, two of the SPES kindergarten teachers had a GOTR team and girls really enjoyed it,” McCord said. “I started as the school counselor last year and really wanted the positive, girl-empowerment elements of the program to be available to our girls at SPES. And [fellow coach and second-grade teacher] Stacy Greenberg and some parents were excited to help bring GOTR to SPES again.”

The empowerment component is critical. The girls meet after school a couple days a week as they are taught strategies for expressing feelings and handling situations. They then work out together. “At the end of the workout, they often give each other energy awards for perseverance, kindness and encouragement,” McCord explained.

In addition to learning goal-setting, perseverance, endurance and cooperation, the head coaches also see the kids feeling empowered and supported.

Alberti said she’s amazed at watching the girls consciously decide to run at a slower pace to run with a different buddy, or hearing how they work together during the day.

“We teach the girls to breathe and think before responding, as well as the importance of standing up for others,” she said. “As the season goes on, the girls start implementing these lessons in their daily lives, which is so incredible to witness.”

McCord said she’s most proud of the positivity and support she sees. “Fifth-grade athletic girls are happy to encourage and support girls who are new to running,” she said. “They are always willing to be partnered with other members of the group, and they are enthusiastic to participate in all the aspects of the program.”

The culminating race in April was a reminder of the program’s success. “Completing the 5K gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment, as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals,” said Alberti. “Crossing the finish line is a defining moment when the girls realize that even the seemingly impossible is possible. The practices and races have a degree of energy that is hard to describe. The girls are all working together toward a goal and it is just electric to experience.”

Jen Callaway ran the final 5K with her daughter, Kacey, a third-grade student at SPES.

“The Girls on the Run program is something Kacey and many of the girls look forward to from an early elementary school age,” said Callaway. “This year’s group of girls, moms and teachers had a great time together, not only running but [also] discussing everything that goes into growing into strong healthy young ladies.

“The program allows girls of different ages and interests to come together, support one another and develop new friendships,” added Callaway. “It’s an experience the girls will remember for years to come.”

To find a GOTR program near you, to start a new program site or for more information, visit www.girlsontherun.org.


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