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Girls on the Run seeking new U.P. sites

Coaches help make the Girls on the Run experience in Marquette a quality one. In the back are coaches Erica Smith and Alyshia Schoell. The young participants are Makena S., left, and Logan M. (Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run)

By MARQUETTE — Girls on the Run Upper Peninsula is recruiting new sites and volunteers in all U.P. communities for its spring 2020 season.

Girls on the Run, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is “dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams,” a press release from the group states.

The 10-week, twice weekly program uses running and other physical activities as a platform for teaching life skills and promoting holistic health outcomes for girls in grades 3-8.

“We have been offering the program in the Eastern Upper Peninsula since 2009 and began expanding across the Upper Peninsula in 2018. We are please to now have teams in the Central and Western U.P. as well as the eastern region” Executive Director Cynthia Merkel said in the release. “Last season we had 12 teams spread across the U.P. with 175 girls participating. So far for spring 2020 we have added Rudyard, Calumet and L’anse as new sites and are looking for more. Our goal is to have 21 teams across the Upper Peninsula by 2021.”

Girls on the Run serves over 200,000 girls annually spanning all 50 states. The program goals of life skills learning and social, psychological and physical development are achieved through the efforts of 51,000 trained volunteer coaches each year.

The curriculum is designed to allow every girl to recognize her inner strength and encourage them to define their lives on their own terms. Physical activity is woven into the program to inspire an appreciation of fitness and to build habits that lead to a lifetime of health.

“Throughout the season the girls make new friends, build their confidence and celebrate all that makes them unique,” Merkel said.

At the end of the 10-week season the girls participate in a Girls on the Run 5K event. This celebratory, non-competitive event is the culminating experience of the curriculum giving the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals.

Before the start of the program, volunteer coaches participate in a one-day National Coach Training Program, held locally, which prepares them to build relationships with and between girls, create a positive, inclusive environment, support individual improvement and deliver the intentional curriculum. Educators may earn five Michigan State Continuing Education Clock Hours through their participation in the training.

“It’s the coaches that truly bring the program alive,” Merkel said. “Whether a coach is a runner or not is not the priority, it’s their passion for setting preadolescent girls on the path towards healthy womanhood that matters. An added bonus of the program is it oftentimes changes us grown-ups almost as much as it does the girls.”

Girls on the Run Upper Peninsula will be accepting applications for new program sites until Jan. 10. For more information about how to start a site, visit www.gotrmichUP/Start-Site or becoming a coach visit www.gotrmichUP.org/Coach or give Merkel a call at 906-632-8109.