The Girls on the Run program, an after-school program offered at Donegan Elementary School and Fountain Hill Elementary School, enhances fifth-grade students’ self-esteem while keeping them active and involved.
Girls on the Run is a national program, with its mission being to inspire girls to be healthy, joyful and confident through experience-based programming, which incorporates running, according to their website. One of 25 after-school programs offered to students at Donegan Elementary and Fountain Hill, the Girls on the Run program operates every fall and spring and averages about 18 participants.
Paige Hoffman, Fountain Hill community school coordinator, said Girls on the Run is one of the favorite and most looked forward to programs.
Each season consists of 20 lessons, with the last being the 5K race. During their training, the girls meet twice a week after school for 90 minutes.
Liz Fones, director of Girls on the Run of Lehigh Valley, said the goal of Girls on the Run is “to teach girls important life skills that they need through physical activity, and those important life skills are not only to be healthy and physically active, but to be emotionally healthy and confident.”
Fones said they were able to include Bethlehem community schools as part of a grant through United Way.
Hoffman said the program is entirely staff-led, with between five and seven staff who serve as coaches and up to 20 staff members who participate on a regular basis and run the 5K with the girls at the end. The volunteer coaches follow a curriculum book that includes specific lesson plans for each meeting.
Lea Mosellie, a fifth-grade teacher at Fountain Hill and one of the volunteer coaches for Girls on the Run, has been volunteering with the program for the past eight years. She said she feels strongly about the valuable lessons young girls can learn through participation in the program.
“I definitely think it has a huge impact on their self-esteem, their confidence, and their sense of belonging. It gives them a sense of being a part of something,” Mosellie said. ”The relationships that are formed throughout the season between the girls are neat to see.”
Mosellie said at the end of each practice, the group does an activity where each girl gives an “energy award” to three peers. She said it is encouraging to see the girls motivating one another.
She said the after-school enrichment programs are important for Bethlehem students, as it provides them with the opportunity to be a kid and build relationships they need to be successful.
Hoffman said that she has seen amazing growth in the participating girls, whether that be from the accomplishment of running a 5K or developing a better sense of self-worth.
“The messaging for the program and the overall feedback that we get from both students, families, and staff who participate shows just how powerful the program is for our girls,” Hoffman said.