By Nicole Sawyer

Girls on the Run at Palencia Elementary School is an after school club that is part personal journey, part sisterhood, and part fitness club for a team of 20 female students. The Girls on the Run curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences.

At Palencia Elementary, teachers and coaches Sarah James, Katrina Davis and Kathryn Kusiak make sure to create a safe environment for their girls.

Participant Annabelle Sawyer says, “I’m not judged or being criticized. I can be myself, like, really be myself.”

Meeting twice a week in small teams of between eight and 20 girls, Girls on the Run teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The 24-lesson curriculum is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches and includes three components: understanding oneself, valuing relationships and teamwork and understanding how one connects with and shapes the world at large.

Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. At each season’s conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete an area-wide 5k running event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.

During the practice 5K, held a week before the Dec. 5, 2015 Girls on the Run 5K, each runner earned a colorful ribbon that was tied to her shoe as she finished a loop around Palencia Elementary’s circular bus drive. While playful, the ribbons that accumulated served a greater purpose: an inspirational reminder for race day. Girls were encouraged to look at their ribbons when they started to feel discouraged and fatigued.

The true success of the program is told in the words of the girls who participate. Sample comments include, “Girls on the Run made me realize that I am the boss of my brain” and “I know that whatever I set my mind to do, I can do it.”

For more information about Girls on the Run, visit www.GOTR.or

Photos courtesy Nicole Sawyer
The Palencia Elementary Girls on the Run team with Coaches Sarah James, Katrina Davis and Kathryn Kusiak.


TCL Palencia Elementary GOTR 1603A


Claire Walczak daughter shows off her Girls on the Run medal with mom Ally and little sister Emily.


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