At Resurrection Catholic School in Lancaster, girls in the Girls on the Run program are learning that the program signifies more than the culminating 5-kilometer race on Nov. 11.
When students in third to fifth grades meet twice a week to train for the run, they also receive subtle moments of encouragement. On a recent Wednesday, the session included 40 minutes of running but also a lesson on gratitude. Coach and gym teacher Connie Feldman yelled a word, like “teachers!” The girls, in teams of two, shouted one grateful statement such as, “They teach us things,” and one ungrateful statement such as, “They make us work.”
Then they ran the length of the gym and came back to Feldman to respond to another word, one that made them think about gratitude and how people impact their lives.
“There’s a different topic every time we meet,” Feldman said, like healthy eating, or what is real beauty. “The physical activity warms them up for their run and the conversations boost their confidence and make them realize they are special.”
On a large lot across the street, the girls chalked their names on the asphalt to keep track of their laps. Running partners Zury Jaramillo and Melanie Martinez end with 17 tick marks. Their goal for the next meeting?
“Nineteen,” they said in unison and without hesitation.
“They set their own goals,” Feldman said. “They can walk, run, skip; just so they keep moving.”
Teachers Mary Scaccia and Jenny Shmidheiser give up free time to be there. They volunteer as coaches because they believe it pays dividends in terms of youth development.
“It’s good for girls, especially those who have never been involved in anything before. They get encouragement from other girls and can feel good about themselves,” Shmidheiser said.
Scaccia added, “It’s a good program because it focuses on the positive. It gives me a chance to get out, too.”
Feldman wanted the program to work at Resurrection. She called, emailed and talked to the girls and their families about its benefits. She gives up a day off to drive in on Wednesdays because, “It’s important,” she said. “There are so many things that can bring girls down. This program is solely to build them up.”
When the 40 minutes of movement ended, Payton Martin and Sydney English told Feldman they made up a cheer as they walked and ran their laps. After listening, Feldman asked them to teach the others. Then she announced that Han Nguyen gave her best effort that day, brought her into the circle of girls, and they repeated the newly-learned cheer.
“We got girl power.
“Yes, we do.
“We got girl power.
“How about you?”
Nguyen, in a T-shirt that reads “Strong,” smiled. As she ran, her only stops were to chalk mark her laps or to write on a poster board a suggestion for a community impact project. Together, the girls will work on a project that will contribute to the community, a lesson on citizenship and service.
Resurrection students enrolled in Girls on the Run are Jaramillo, Nguyen, Martin, English, Marisol Mendez, Rylie Martin, Victoria Rivera, Melanie Martinez, Belen Borjas, and upper grade mentor Annalise Kauffman.
(Donna Walker is the Marketing Director at Resurrection Catholic School.)
By Donna Walker, Special to The Witness