Mission Adelaide Volunteer

Girls Learn to Honor their Uniqueness through Girls on the Run

By Maria Paskell

As we stood in a circle and each girl raised her hand to share something she loved about herself, I couldn’t help but reflect on the lessons these 6th-8th grade girls had not only internalized themselves but taught me, a mid-twenty-year-old.

“I love that I am creative.”

“I love my talent for theater.”

“I love that I am kind.”

These genuine reflections on each girl’s individual gifts and strengths demonstrated a unique moment in today’s society. This circle provided these girls the opportunity to be proud of who they are, to cherish their unique talents, and to have the courage to voice this.

This experience occurred during a weekly Girls on the Run (GOTR) practice at Dunham Recreational Center. Every Thursday, this group of middle school girls would meet at this recreation center in West Price Hill, lace up their matching neon New Balance sneakers, and prepare to not only engage in external physical activity but learn a lesson to improve themselves internally. The story above demonstrated a reflection on the lesson called “Star Power.” Star Power is a tool each girls learns, which focuses on embracing the best version of herself and not being afraid to let this shine.

Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization dedicated to instilling confidence in young girls. Through a 10-week season, a group of 12 girls meet weekly to develop skills in physical exercise, healthy habits, and positive self-thoughts. Each week is dedicated to a new lesson aligning with one of these goals. The ultimate goal is to instill change in the areas of confidence, care, character, connections, and competence. The organization originally started as a program for 3rd-5th grade girls. However, they have now expanded to include a program called “Heart and Sole,” a program dedicated to serving the unique needs of adolescent girls, grades 6th-8th. High school girls can get involved as well through the role of junior coaches. At the culmination of the season, the girls participate in a 5k run and each girl is partnered with a running buddy to support her along this journey. This 5k serves as a celebration of both the physical and mental strength that these girls have gained throughout the season.

My specific role in Girls on the Run was as a Mission Adelaide volunteer. I served as an outsider to the team, instructed with the role of observing the changes occurring, the stories developing, and in turn, providing a final overview of these transformations. From attending the second practice and then the last practice, this transformation was truly evident. I saw Emily, one of the quieter girls in the beginning, break out of her shell and encourage others to keep running during the practice run. I saw new friendships emerge. I saw a level of commitment for others develop as I watched the girls plan for their end-of-season service project involving creating bags of toiletries and supplies for children at Bethany House. This was a project the girls had developed through their own brainstorming.

My experience with Girls on the Run has truly inspired me as it demonstrated to me the necessary uplifting messages that we must instill into young girl’s minds. If you are interested in supporting GOTR, getting involved yourself, getting your daughter involved, or simply learning more about the program, please visit https://www.gotrcincinnati.org. You can also find Girls on the Run on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I can promise you that this program is life-changing for everyone involved!