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Draper Journal

Girls on the Run Promotes Confidence and Healthy Living for Young Girls

Jan 26, 2016 08:44AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Kelly Cannon | [email protected]

Draper - A group of young girls from Draper are learning about themselves, the value of teamwork and the importance of community all while training for a 5K.Girls on the Run is a nonprofit begun in 1996 based on 24 life lessons taught to pre-adolescent girls based around the framework of training for a 5K race. There are currently four locations around Draper where GOTR groups meet and train. Melissa Gonzales is the coach of the girls from third to fifth grade at the American Preparatory Academy. “My daughters got involved three years ago. At first I was just dropping them off, but then I wanted to know more about the program and about the girls,” Gonzales said. “I love running, so I wanted to be involved and be a part of it.” The groups meet every Thursday at the charter school. After the girls change into running clothes and have a snack, the meeting starts with a life lesson. Ashleigh Macomber, the coach at American Preparatory Academy who works with the older girls, explained the first few weeks are dedicated to teaching the girls about the value of self. “It’s about breaking out of the ‘girl’ box,” Macomber said. “That there’s not a certain way to be.” The next few weeks are about teamwork, how to work together as a team and how they can learn from each other. The last few weeks are dedicated to the idea of community and what the girls can do to affect their community. The girls do a service project both for their school and for a larger community. Last year, the group cleaned up the garbage in the playground of their school. “I don’t think they realized how much garbage was there,” Macomber said. “But they realized if they worked together, it wouldn’t take too long.” The group also raised money for the school’s sister school in Africa so the students could purchase school uniforms. After the lessons, the girls go out and train for the 5K, increasing the distance they run each time. The GOTR 5K happens on May 21 in Sugar House. Teams from all over the state come to run. Over 1,000 girls and their personal running buddies participate. “We make a big deal of it,” Gonzales said. “We give out medals. It’s a pretty fun thing.” For Gonzales, the goal is for the girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. “I want them to be confident in themselves and in their body image and to teach them how to solve problems and to make healthy decisions,” she said. Macomber loves seeing the girls accomplish their goals. “Running is a big accomplishment and it’s a fun thing to do,” she said. “A lot of them don’t know each other when they start but when they run together, they see they’re not alone in this experience.” This is the first year that Draper Elementary is participating in GOTR. Principal Piper Riddle discovered the program through other schools. “I loved hearing the impact it had on girls socially, physically and emotionally,” Riddle said. School Psychologist Diana Thompson-Sorrie was enlisted to be the coach of the team. As the school psychologist, Thompson-Sorrie felt the program fell in line with her objectives of the school of social and emotional well-being. The school is currently in the middle of recruitment with the actual program starting in February. Thompson-Sorrie spoke to the school’s PTA and emailed teachers a flyer to email out to parents. Thompson-Sorrie, who also teaches a class called “Girl Power” to adolescent girls, finds the goals of GOTR to be vital for the mental and emotional health of young girls during this transitional time in their lives. “By the third grade, the ‘girl drama’ begins to emerge,” Thompson-Sorrie said. “By fifth grade, they need input and help on conflict resolution and other issues.” She also teaches classes to middle school girls using the same concepts. When she hears the problems of girls who have not had the preparation that GOTR provides, it’s distressing to her. “The sooner they can get these concepts, the better,” she said.