By Jonah Stevenson, City Year New Hampshire AmeriCorps Member serving on the Henry Wilson Elementary School team generously supported by Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, five young girls in the classroom I serve are turning their frustration into charged-up positive energy in their after-school social/fitness club, Girls On The Run. These girls are amped up because they get the opportunity to spend time with about twenty other girls and five coaches to learn how to empower themselves as females while developing personal fitness and social-emotional skills necessary for their future.
The power of running is significant, as it is a wonderful tool that helps develop skills through an extraordinary agent of socialization. Girls On The Run, which has sites all over the United States, empowers young girls from grades three to five to run a 5k (3.1 miles) and generally to live happy and healthy lives. The impact the organization has on young girls, especially the five in my classroom, is inspirational. I've noticed these girls persevere after a rough day as the thought of running with their friends kept them going.
I have the pleasure of being Kayla’s* running buddy in a 5k in Concord. The excitement she shows for running and completing the 5k is incredible and heartwarming. We ran a practice 5k, where Kayla and I had to run 12 laps around Henry Wilson Elementary School to successfully complete our goal. While running, I motivated Kayla by throwing out modern dance moves (albeit done horrifically) and she gave her all to run the 12 laps. She absolutely loved it and although she couldn't run the entire time, she was able to walk with a smile on her face. Her silly smile inspires me through hard days to keep going.
The girls' excitement for running and committing themselves to their personal goals makes me realize the power of exercising and sticking to healthy life habits. Running is such an important activity for students and humans of all ages to practice, as it teaches one to be in control of their breath and most importantly of their own body. The latter point is fundamental for females of all ages, as women are often not given the chance to shine in an innately patriarchal society.
My mother has been running for 30+ years in various competitions and terrains and says running has helped her keep so many close relationships, and the social aspect helps her to stay accountable to keep living a healthy life style. The positive endorphins released through aerobic exercises also help her maintain a positive mindset. Similar to my mom, running helps the girls to maintain positivity and leave anything negative that happened in the day behind. While running, they also make time to enjoy each others’ company and I often find them bursting into contagious laughter.
These girls are humble about their success of conquering the 3.1- mile trek around Concord on November 18, but they should be so proud of themselves. The stories they've told me of overcoming tough challenges in their personal lives has really touched my spirit to keep serving and giving these girls and the rest of my class the positive energy they deserve from me. I'm lucky to be involved in their path to success. Although these girls may look up to me as a near-peer mentor in their pursuit of greatness, I look up these girls every day as my empowered and persevering young heroes.
To learn more about Girls On The Run, click here.
*Name changed to protect student privacy