CHICO — The young women involved in Girls on the Run are running toward a goal of helping themselves physically and emotionally.
The program, which is a 10-week course offered twice a year, helps build confidence in the young women involved while also teaching them life skills and the importance of physical activity.
“We use running as our vehicle to teach these girls life skills and how to set a goal and achieve,” said Executive Director Claire Johnson.
At end of the program the young women participate in a 5-kilometer run. The staff is gearing up for fall season, which starts Sept. 11 and runs through Nov. 13.
There are two programs for Girls on the Run of the North State with different curriculum. One is for young women in third, fourth and fifth grades. The other one, called Heart and Sole, is for girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. This program applies to getting the young women set up and prepared for high school.
Johnson and her staff make sure the program is accessible to any girl who wants to participate, regardless of their financial situation. It costs about $200 to get the girls through, but the program offers a sliding scale.
“This is all thanks to local organizations, the active 2030 club, Soroptimists, Exchange club who help offset the cost so it isn’t a barrier,” Johnson said. “Research shows this is foundational to a child learning and growing with school work and builds confidence. We don’t want someone to be turned away.”
The young women meet at their school campuses for an hour and a half two days a week and learn life skills. They run and play games and every lesson has a topic of the day. The topic might be positive self talk vs. negative self talk. They learn what positive self talk looks like and how to turn a negative thought into a positive one. It weaves together life skills with physical activity.
The girls also participate in a community impact program, such as collecting coats for those in need. The girls also complete campus projects, saving cats and dogs and write letters of appreciation to firefighters and teachers.
“They learn not everything is about them and learn the power to make a difference in their community,” said Johnson. “Every girl walks away with something different, such as making a new friend.”
Maya English, 19, is a Chico State student and works as an intern for Girls on the Run. She is a graduate of the program herself, having completed the program when she was in elementary school.
“It’s been really fun and it’s a different side of girls on the run. It’s really interesting to see how everything works behind the scenes. I’m enjoying it,” English said about her internship.
The program has helped English a lot as she grows up.
“I feel like it taught me how to express myself and vocalize when things were upsetting me,” English said. “There is a healthy balance between mind and body. It helped me realize running can be therapeutic. It had an impact on me that I didn’t realize when I was younger. It helped me handle conflict and my emotions. We learn about how to express yourself and how you have the power over your choices. You can’t control other people but you can take steps to understand yourself and communicate and interact positively.”
English will work as a coach this season and help put together packets for teams, help with social media and hand out fliers.
“When I was younger I looked up to the coaches,” she said. “I want this to be a positive experience for the girls and teach them what I learned and apply it to your life.”
Program registration for the fall 2023 season is now open on a first come, first served basis at participating schools. The program is offered to young women in Butte, Glenn, Yuba, Sutter and Siskiyou counties. The Girls on the Run website can be found at www.gotrnorthstate.org. The deadline to register for the spring 2024 season is Oct. 31.