Girls on the Run teaches lifelong lessons to students at Gilles-Sweet
May 18, 2022
For the last 10 years, one group has been empowering and educating girls at Gilles-Sweet Elementary School through a love of running.
Girls on the Run is a nationally recognized, research-based program that helps girls gain valuable life skills and confidence. According to their website, Girls on the Run has inspired over two million girls to build confidence and life skills through “dynamic, interactive lessons and physical activity.”
The first aspect of the program are the social and emotional lessons taught from the Girls on the Run curriculum over the course of 10 weeks.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Meredith Schulte, Girls on the Run advisor and psychologist at Gilles-Sweet expressed. “It’s basically just life lessons. It’s how to be a good friend, choosing good friends. One of the first lessons is talking about a girls star power, their inner power, and their inner beauty, and what makes them special and unique.”
“Another example is about empathy,” Caroline Gallagher, advisor and third-grade teacher at Gilles-Sweet added. “We talk about breathing techniques, there’s a breathing lesson. It teaches the students when they get stressed out to stop, breathe, think, and respond.”
In addition to the lesson plans, girls also engage in some kind of project to benefit their community. In past years, girls made potted flowers for senior citizens, made treat baskets for members of police and fire, and have collected donations for the Cleveland Animal Protective League.
“We decided this year to paint rocks and leave inspirational messages on them, and then we can spread them out in the community,” Schulte expressed. “One of our ideas was also cleaning up trash. So we kind of morphed the two into one project. We ended up cleaning up trash in the streets as we walked around leaving our rocks.”
“We always tell them, these are things you can take with you in every part of your life,” Gallagher added. “With Girl Scouts, your friends, at school, in your neighborhood - these are lessons you can use everywhere. You can share these ideas with other people, and they’re not just to be used with Girls on the Run.”
In addition to the social-emotional learning, girls also get physically stronger and healthier by training for a 5K race each year.
“It’s not competitive, it’s all about just moving forward,” Schulte expressed. “We always say that you can dance, you can hop, skip, jump, run - as long as you’re moving forward and your being active and being healthy.”
This year, the Girls on the Run 5K was held at Canal Park in Akron, where over 3,000 girls from Northeast Ohio participated. The event is designed not as a competition, but rather a time when girls can celebrate each other’s accomplishments.
“At the 5K, everyone’s bib has the number one on it. And all the girls here get a practice 5K here before going down to the actual 5K,” Schulte added.
Girls on the Run at Gilles-Sweet Elementary not only teaches girls important life lessons, it also creates bonds of friendship between 45 girls and 10 adult advisors that last for years.
“I just see that they crave being together, and they want to see each other in the hallways,” Schulte said. “Some of the teachers, they don’t know all of the girls here. It’s a great way for girls to connect with other adults in the building.”
“I love it because the girls love it, so they make it easy,” Gallagher added. “You don’t mind volunteering the time, they make it so easy, and they make you want to do it.”
PHOTO CAPTION: The entire group of 45 plus girls who make up the Girls on the Run at Gilles-Sweet Elementary School.