Group teaches positive self-image

Published 9:19 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fourteen girls at Hillpoint Elementary School have been learning to work through the pressures of being a girl this year as part of a program that uses running as the common factor.

The girls — third-, fourth- and fifth-graders — will celebrate the end of their club’s first busy year Thursday night with a party.

“Girls on the Run” is part of an international program aimed at teaching preteen girls about self-esteem and healthy lifestyles through running. Teacher Beth Brant decided to start up her own club this year at Hillpoint.

“I really liked how the program didn’t just focus on running,” Brant said. “There’s also a strong emphasis on peer pressure, relationships, body image – concepts like that.”

The group meets twice each week to do fitness exercises and learn important life lessons. The girls also did community service work and ran a 5k to finish the season.

“The number one lesson I’ve learned is teamwork,” 5th grader Aliah King said. “I’ve also learned about positive and negative things – like to be nice and kind to each other and to cooperate and communicate.”

“The girls volunteer to be in the club because they want to be more physically fit and be part of a team,” Hillpoint vice principal Lori Mounie said. “The better you feel about yourself carries over to your other school work and peer relationships. They’re motivated to help each other, and it’s a positive experience all around.”

Kelly Bethea is a member of the club, and said she’s learned about “helping with the community and promises we make and how running can be fun and always trying our best and expressing our feelings and being honest and respecting others and how to sprint and run better.”

The meetings begin with a small talk with a moral and then they do warm ups, a team building activity and a workout. Near the end of the practice, Brant said they talk about community and how they can help theirs.

It was during one of their talks the girls decided, “they wanted to help the animals in the community,” Brant said.

The girls spent over an hour mixing treats, which Brant took home and baked, to give to the animals this Christmas.

“We wanted to do something to help others,” Bethea said. “There are so many dogs and cats in the world that don’t have a lot of food. We felt bad for them.”

“Other girls had ideas to help the homeless or make cards for CHKD, but we felt sorry for the cats and dogs,” King said. “It feels good to help someone out every now and then – actually, every day.”

The decision to make treats was a unanimous one by the group. Teamwork and group decisions are a key lesson Brant said she tries to reinforce with the girls.

“Most things in life don’t just require you to do something by yourself,” Brant said. “It requires a group of people, and if you don’t know how to act with other people things won’t work. It’s something the girls need to learn early on.”

Both the girls and teacher hope the program will continue next semester.