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Girls on the Run empowers elementary students

Girls on the Run empowers elementary students

This spring marks the 10th straight year elementary students in District 191 have participated in Girls on the Run. 

When Reading Specialist Cindy Crawford brought Girls on the Run to Vista View Elementary, it became the first school in the south metro to participate in the national running program. A decade later, the non-profit that promotes the development of students’ social, emotional, physical and behavioral skills has expanded to more than 150 schools statewide.

This spring, all girls in grades 3-5 have the opportunity to participate in Girls on the Run at Vista View, Rahn Elementary or Gideon Pond Elementary, with a limit of 20 students at each school. After-school practices run from the first week of April to the first week of June. Registration is available online.

Crawford knew when she started Girls on the Run that the values it promoted would be beneficial for students at Vista View. Now that she’s coached 18 seasons (spring and fall) she’s seen the results first-hand as girls in the program have gained confidence, thrived academically, socially and emotionally, and gone on to achieve great things. 

“Girls on the Run is a program that empowers girls to become their best, healthiest, unique selves. It makes sure all girls are seen and heard. It teaches and encourages healthy personal choices and healthy relationships and peer skills,” Crawford said. “Girls on the Run gives girls three hours a week of structured active time outdoors, away from screens, with other girls and caring adult mentors to move, grow, set, and reach goals.”

Girls on the Run

Running is merely the framework for providing this experience. Participants start the 10-week season with just 10 minutes of movement and gradually work toward walking or running for longer periods. Warm-up games and strength and mobility exercises are also part of each practice. Every season, the team organizes and completes a community service project and various team bonding activities. The season concludes with a 5K run at the State Fairgrounds where each student is joined by a running buddy of their choice.

“It's a very powerful, uplifting, exhilarating event - full of girl power and joy! At the final 5K, each girl is assigned a running buddy for her safety and encouragement. That can be any adult: a favorite teacher, coach or staff member, a family member, or friend, or a volunteer who is their personal cheerleader for the entire 3 miles,” Crawford said. “Another amazing thing is how many family members take up running in order to run with their girl in the final 5K. We have supported countless moms and dads as they complete their first 5Ks, too. How awesome is that?”

Jennifer Houtman, a third-grade teacher at Vista View, first got involved with Girls on the Run when she joined one of her students as a running buddy. She’s now coached more than 13 seasons. Houtman appreciates the sense of accomplishment and personal growth students take away from the 10-week experience.

“Girls on the Run really celebrates the journey of running. Practices at the beginning of the season work to build stamina, strength, confidence and pacing,” she said. “As a coach, I want all girls to feel empowered and confident to take risks using the skills they've learned and practice during the season. Skills such as empathy, believing in themselves (Star Power), conflict resolution, communication, and community service are specifically taught. I see girls transfer these skills into their school lives and their peers see it too.”

Burnsville High School senior Alanna Moe participated in Girls on the Run for three years while at Vista View, the first three years the school had the program. She ended up running cross-country the next seven years and was a captain for the Blaze last fall. 

“Girls on the Run really made me love running and introduced me to something I otherwise would probably have not experienced. My experience in Girls on the Run is definitely the reason I still run today,” Moe said. “I liked the environment. It was so supportive and encouraging and that is why I continued to do it!”

Moe said in addition to sparking her love of running, Girls on the Run also helped her make friends and gain confidence.

“The impact it had on me was that I was able to get closer to a bunch of my classmates and those in other grades and I still run with a few of the girls I met in Girls on the Run in high school. It also gave me a bunch of tools that are really important for confidence and individuality and helped me learn a lot of lessons,” she said. “I would tell young runners to definitely join Girls on the Run and even if someone wouldn’t classify themselves as a runner to still give it a try and have fun with it! Before Girls on the Run I would not have considered myself a runner, but after I definitely would! Take the leap and join. You won’t regret it!”


By the Numbers

85 percent of girls improved in confidence, caring, competence, character development, or connection to others

97 percent of girls learned critical life skills including resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions

40 percent increase in physical activity among girls who were least active at the program’s start

Girls on the Run is dedicated to eliminating barriers to participation. Any student who identifies as a girl is encouraged to participate. Students who can’t afford the registration fee will not be turned away. Donations can be made to Girls on the Run Minnesota or select “Girls on the Run” when using Amazon Smile to help cover those costs.