Go Girls Go! is a health and wellness program created by Healthy Communities Partnership (HCP) that empowers girls to take ownership of their well-being by teaching them critical life skills while building self-confidence. 15% of K-6th graders in Franklin County are overweight and 18% are obese. 21% of 7th-12th graders are overweight and 23% are obese. Go Girls Go! is one innovative program in Franklin County that can help youth make healthy choices, thereby minimizing their risk of being overweight or obese, by providing community supports during critical (middle childhood) developmental stages.
Starting in the spring of 2016 at Ben Chambers Elementary School with funding from Summit Endowment, Go Girls Go! provides opportunities for pro-social bonding, increased self-esteem, enhanced mental health and health education. Girls from various schools in 4th, 5th and 6th grades join HCP staff and running mentors to improve these competencies. The program has now expanded to the area middle and elementary schools. In the spring of 2018, the program will be offered to at least one elementary school in Waynesboro and additional schools in Chambersburg School District.
Students participate in a 9- week program that pairs an educational component with the principles of running, fitness and healthy movement. Participants meet for an hour and a half, twice each week. During this time, the girls participate in group time, followed by games and running/activity time. Group time covers a variety of topics such as having the girls reflect on who they are, how they form friendships and their personal impact in the community. The exercise portion of the program utilizes games and running activities to teach stretching, goal setting, healthy eating, safety, and running/walking as a sport. Participants are encouraged to increase running times and distances until the culmination of the program with the 5k Run/Walk. Each girl is encouraged to bring a running buddy- family member to the run to further expand the concept of activity among family and friends.
“Our goal is to teach young girls to set goals, accomplish them and build self-esteem through this process,” said Karen Johnston, HCP Executive Director and one of the program’s mentors. “Research shows that girls in the later elementary grades tend to drop out of organized sports, for a variety of reasons. Go Girls Go! gives these girls a chance to participate in something positive that they can continue for a lifetime.”
Mentorship and forming relationships are another important aspect of Go Girls Go! Each time the program is offered, HCP recruits volunteer mentors to assist with the learning lessons and the running portions. The mentors work with the girls in small groups as they discuss relevant topics and then later as they run and complete running/walking goals. Each mentor must have or completethe necessary application process and required clearances to be a part of the program. As the weeks go by, many of the girls form positive and trusting relationships with the mentors and this aids in building self-esteem and confidence. “I love being a part of this program and working with the girls,” says Michelle Neuharth, a mentor since spring 2016. “It is so exciting and rewarding to watch the girls progress in their running and to see their confidence grow as a result.”
Participant surveys indicate that the program is helping girls:
- 43% report being more physically active after the program.
- 86% of enjoy running more (67% yes, 19% a little)
- 90% think they will continue running (62% for sure, 28% a little)
- 93% report feeling better about themselves after participating (72% yes, 21% a little)
- 93% report feeling better about their bodies after participating (71% yes, 22% a little)
- 92% report being better able to set goals and reach them (67% yes, 24% a little)
- 92% report feeling more connected to other girls and mentors (82% yes, 10% a little)
- 89% would participate again
- 97% would recommend the program to a friend
The participants also report the things they’ve learned and will to use, such as not to gossip, pacing/running, self-confidence (top three answers across the schools) - also healthy eating and being nice to each other.
Go Girls Go! will start again in February or March 2018 in both Waynesboro and Chambersburg areas with the culminating 5K being planned for May 2018. It is expected that there will be over 150 girls enrolled in the 9-week program this spring.
The program is always looking for sponsors or passionate volunteers! To get involved, contact Christy Unger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717)264-1470 x102.