Jan. 28, 2015. Local girls in grades 3 through 8 are invited to participate in Girls on the Run of the High Country (GOTR). Registration for the spring season is open now at www.gotr.appstate.edu. The program will begin Feb. 9.
Girls on the Run is a youth development after-school program in Watauga, Ashe, Wilkes and Avery counties that innovatively weaves training for a 5K with lessons focused on developing essential life skills. The program is part of a national organization with over 120,000 participants this year.
GOTR focuses on third to eighth grade girls specifically because they are impressionable at this age and are only beginning the struggles with their own identity and peer pressures. “These formative years are the perfect time to address important issues and develop skills. An emphasis is placed on independent thinking, the importance of making healthy choices, positive group dynamics and problem solving,” said Mary Sheryl Horine, council director of GOTR.
Throughout the 24-lesson curriculum, girls learn values such as peer support rather than defeating others in competition. Other valuable topics include “positive self-talk,” “celebrating gratitude” and “being emotional is healthy.” Each class opens with an introduction to a topic and is followed by games, group discussion and physical activity. All of the girls set a goal to be able to complete a 5K race by the end of the 12-week curriculum. In addition to the classes and training, the girls also design and complete a community service project.
Research from GOTR has validated that adult involvement matters. Girls like camaraderie and fun in sport, but rely on the adults to create positive experiences. In fact, one of the strongest predictors of increased physical activity is support and care from parents, teachers and coaches. For this reason, the program has built a strong volunteer base of students from Appalachian State University along with dedicated teachers from local schools.
Bailey Kinsman, 23, is a student at Appalachian and is currently in her first semester of coaching for GOTR. “(GOTR has) affected me in that I feel like I’m making a difference. Being with the girls two times a week has given me a lot as well. They’re really great and they’ve impacted my life more than they’ll know,” Kinsman said.
Volunteers who serve as mentors to the girls develop skills in teaching and organization as well as behavioral management, critical thinking and small group dynamics.
Anna Welsh, 40, is a kindergarten teacher at Hardin Park Elementary School in Watauga County and is well versed in each of these areas. She has coached with GOTR for four years and has grown to love the program.
“I have often told people that I would never do Girls on the Run after teaching kindergarten all day unless I really loved it,” said Welsh. “I think is an amazing program to help young girls become confident and learn that they can make goals and achieve them!”
Those who are not directly involved with the girls have the opportunity to learn about non-profit management, fundraising, database management, advertising and race management.
Additional volunteer positions arise during the multiple races GOTR hosts during the year. Anyone can volunteer to work as water station attendants, parking directors, cheerleaders and timekeepers.
Along with hosting multiple races throughout the year, including the High Country Triple Crown series, GOTR will host its 4th Annual Luck o’ the Lassie Celebration and fundraiser on March 17.
To register for the Girls on the Run spring season or to learn more about the 4th Annual Luck o’ the Lassie, visit www.gotr.appstate.edu .
Photos by Ken Ketchie and Madison Fisler Lewis