LANSING, Mich. — This week’s Good Neighbors are helping to dispel age-old gender stereotypes and ongoing obstacles for young girls. In fact, they are teaching them to be inspired, motivated and ready to make a difference.
Eleven-year-old Aunika Wright is in sixth grade at Lansing’s Cole Academy. Last year, she signed up for Girls On The Run. Aunika says the program has helped bring her out of her shell.
“I’ve been in Girls On The Run for a year and it changed me a lot. We had a new student in our class, and no one had come up to her and it was only me that came up to her. And I think Girls On The Run helped with that a lot because I was able to make a new friend without hesitating,” she said.
Girls On The Run is an international nonprofit with more than 200 chapters across 50 states. Girls On The Run Mid-Michigan was started in 2007 and serves girls in five mid-Michigan counties.
Stephanie McClintock is the executive director of the mid-Michigan chapter. She says the after-school program is designed to help girls in third through eighth grade strengthen their social, emotional, physical and behavioral skills.
“The programming is intentionally designed to use an evidence-based curriculum to help the girls understand lessons about important things like how to embrace the things about themselves and others that are unique and appreciate those things, how to practice positive self-talk, how to manage their emotions, how to resolve conflicts and stand up for themselves and others and, toward the end of the program, the girls are also working together with their team to plan and implement a small community impact project to learn about giving back to their communities,” she said.
McClintock says Girls On The Run wouldn’t exist without volunteers like Mellissa Reed, a third-grade teacher at Cole Academy who donates several hours a week to the program. Reed says she loves volunteering with the program.
“I think it's really needed because of the empowerment, giving those girls ways to say, okay, my hair's a mess today. It's alright. I'm not feeling my best today. It's okay, I can make a choice to make it better. I can talk to other people about how I'm feeling today. And oh, wow, there are three other girls here that feel the same way I do. Or they have the same family life that I have. So we have a bond, just opening up and sharing things that you probably wouldn't share because you don't think anybody else is feeling that way or has any of those connections with you?”
Sixth grader Mikayla Lewis says Girls On The Run teaches her to be more self-assured.
“You want to bring yourself out and be confident in what you do. So, if you want to be something you follow your dream and you keep doing it,” she said.
At the end of the 10-week program, the girls take part in a 5k run which organizers say is meant to give them a sense of accomplishment.
But none of it would be possible without the volunteers. McClintock says she is very thankful for all of them.
“Our volunteers are good neighbors because they give their valuable time and energy and talents and skills to the girls and the communities that they live in and to make sure that they have access to all these incredibly important lessons,” she said.
Girls On The Run is currently enrolling new students. They also offer camps and are always looking for more volunteers and coaches.
If you are interested in finding out more about Girls On The Run and how to sign up visit their website www.gotrmidmichigan.org.
We want to say thank you to all the volunteers with the after-school program Girls on the Run, you are this week’s Good Neighbors.
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