For more information about Girls on the Run on the Western Slope, visit www.girlsontherungv.com.
Steamboat Springs Soda Creek Elementary School fifth-grader Anna Burkholder said that each Tuesday and Thursday, before they run, the girls learn life lessons.
Another fifth-grader, Lyta Foulk, said some of those lessons include gossip, bullying, friendships, teamwork and staying away from drugs and alcohol. Anna and Lyta, and more than 30 other Soda Creek third- through fifth-grade girls, have been meeting since the beginning of the school year as part of Girls on the Run, a program offered for the first time in the Steamboat Springs School District.
Soda Creek physical education teacher Shannon Carlin introduced the program. She organized Girls on the Run at her previous job in Denver, and after two years in Steamboat Springs, she wanted to do it again. The program promotes self-esteem while engaging the girls in physical activity.
"Teaching and coaching elementary school age, I learned there is a huge need for this - for that girl power," she said. "Girls today have a lot of challenges, and this gives them the tools they need to address those."
By addressing some of those challenges when they're younger, Carlin said, the girls would be better prepared for later in life.
Carlin said 33 third- through fifth-grade girls at Soda Creek are participating this year. She said a teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary School was working with about 25 girls, who also are participating in the program. The 10-week Girls on the Run program culminates Nov. 7 in Grand Junction in a 5K race for all participants of the program on the Western Slope.
According to the Girls on the Run Western Colorado Web site, www.girlsontherungv.com, the program began with 14 girls at a school in Charlotte, N.C., and has since grown to more than 100,000 participants in the U.S. and Canada. Nearly 1,500 girls from schools on the Western Slope participated last year, the Web site indicated.
The girls practiced last Thursday by trying to run 16 laps around Soda Creek, which Carlin said was equivalent to the 3.1 miles they'll run in the 5K.
Fourth-grader Kensey Bishop said she's learned about the bad things in life they need to watch out for and the good things they should look forward to.
Some of the girls also said that before they run, they also talk about positive self-image, physical fitness and nutrition.
"It will help us in life and in middle school," said fifth-grader Dylan Scruggs.
Anna Burkholder took that thought a bit further.
"It will help us lead better lives in our mid-20s," she said.
A number of moms have participated since the program started, Carlin said, with the meetings and in running with their daughters. It's something Carlin has encouraged.
Schuyler Roach's daughter Eli, a fourth-grader, is participating in the program. Schuyler Roach said Girls on the Run is terrific. It allows the girls an opportunity to feel good about themselves while making new friends, she said.
"They've learned a number of issues about growing up and being a girl," she said. "Really, everything boils down to respecting themselves and respecting others. It's about making a promise and keeping a commitment."
Eventually, Carlin said, she'd like to encourage all the elementary schools in Routt County to start their own Girls on the Run programs. She also could promote a similar program that deals with different issues for middle school girls. Carlin said if more schools participate, maybe Steamboat Springs could hold its own 5K.
But until then, Carlin said she's enjoying seeing the girls' growth. Throughout the program this year, Carlin said, she's noticed that the girls have gotten stronger, physically and emotionally.
"It's a really powerful program," she said. "To see them come on the first day, some of the girls were afraid to even say their names. To see them 8 or 9 weeks later, they're whooping and hollering. Seeing the changes in the girls is really fun."