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Curriculum integrates running to boost confidence, heath and joy

At Girls on the Run of Los Angeles County (GOTRLA), we inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. Our council was founded in 2004 and over the years we have provided 9,400 girls the opportunity to develop confidence, kindness and a sense of community.

Girls on the run targets girls ages 8 to 14, a particularly vulnerable age for girls’ emotional, social and physical development. In a recent independent study conducted by Dr. Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, we verified the critical need for programming that enhances girls’ social, psychological and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences. Findings from this study validate what we have known all along -- Girls on the Run delivers real and lasting impact.

Other key study findings:

  • Empathy and other life skills positively impact their lives after the ten-week Girls on the Run program has ended.
  • Girls experience personal growth at Girls on the Run that positively impacts their lives outside of the program.
  • Girls learn how to make healthy choices at Girls on the Run that they can carry with them after the program ends.

Purpose

Over the course of the 10-week program, girls will develop and improve competence, feel confident in who they are, develop strength of character, respond to others and oneself with care and compassion, create positive connections with peers and adults, and make a meaningful contribution to their community.

At GOTRLA, we prioritize equity in program access and inclusion to ensure all girls have the opportunity to uncover their full potential. Long-term community relationships have created a sustainable programming in diverse socioeconomic communities across the county.

Teaching girls to think independently

Young girls typically meet the world with curiosity, enthusiasm and energy. However, they also are bombarded by negative social messages of how to dress, what to think and what is acceptable to others. By middle school, many girls lose confidence at the precise moment they are testing and exploring who they are and where they belong. During that critical period when girls are deciding who to become, yet are still receptive to adults, GOTR offers structured guidance to encourage girls to think independently, make healthy choices, solve problems and honor their unique gift.

Since 2004, GOTRLA has catered to the needs of LA county girls by providing tools to overcome today’s challenges. This year along, nearly 2,000 elementary and middle school girls will take part in this life-changing program. 75 percent of those girls will participate at a significantly reduced rate or for no fee, as GOTRLA is committed to access and inclusion for all girls, regardless of ability to pay the program fee.

Support that builds confidence. Confidence that builds character

GOTR curriculum emphasizes peer support, individuality and doing one’s best. While the program’s team environment promotes peer-to-peer friendships that combat negative social pressures, it also provides positive adult role models with whom girls can forge supportive, trusting relationships. These support networks are critical for children who are increasingly exposed to bullying and sexual harassment at school and though social media.

Encouraging positive attitudes about physical activity

In 2016, almost half of fifth-grade girls failed to meet the California Physical Fitness standard for aerobic activity with 8 percent needing improvement to avoid health risk (California Department of Education). Similar numbers were seen for girls in the seventh-grade with an increase in those potentially facing health risks (~12 percent). Although sport psychology research wholeheartedly supports the health and social benefits of sports participation, physical education in California schools is on a downward trend, dropping to the bottom of the priority list as school budgets tighten (EdSource). Girls on the Run builds confidence in close partnership with healthy habits that support physical, mental and emotional growth in an environment specifically developed for girls. The lessons foster careful balance between encouraging exercise and deemphasizing the importance of external appearance, particularly an unrealistic body ideal.

Support. Encourage. Teach.

Girls who develop healthy confidence are more likely to seek leadership roles, find success for themselves and encourage it in others, and bring positive change to personal relationships in their communities. At GOTRLA, we support and encourage girls to tap into their confidence and teach them to unleash their positive power on the world.

Evaluation

Success is measure quantitatively against strategic goals set annually by the executive director and board of directors. Metrics include participant statistics, as well as volunteer and fundraising benchmarks. Qualitatively, pre and post-program surveys allow GOTRLA to measure how girls evolve in key areas such as healthy habits, body image and self-worth. A recent quantitative study by Dr. Maureen Weiss found that after participation in GOTR shows the following:

  • 85 percent of girls report being able to manage emotions
  • 80 percent are prepared to resolve conflicts
  • 90 said they helped others
  • 91 percent understand how to use intentional decision making
  • 97 percent said they learned critical life lessons that they are using at home, school, with friends.

Parent surveys round out the assessment. GOTRLA parents share their experience of the positive effect the program has on girls’ school and home lives. For example, one noted that her daughter’s depression was “cured” through program participation, while another told us her daughter “became a great problem solver and was able to generalize what she learned into some real life situations."

For more information about Girls on the Run Los Angeles County, visit them here: gotrla.org

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MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

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