By Evan Brandt, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> More and more girls in the Pottstown schools are on the run, thanks to a program designed to boost their confidence, their fitness and their leadership skills.
Last year, the program — appropriately named Girls on the Run — was piloted at Barth Elementary School with 24 students.
This year, the success of last year’s program spawned similar efforts at Franklin and Lincoln elementary schools as well as Pottstown Middle School.
Specifically, Girls on the Run is a 12-week physical activity based youth development program “that inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running,” according to information provided by the Barth leaders, whose nine coaches and 6 volunteers helped 31 students.
More than just the art of running, the Girls on the Run Program taught other lessons as well, and, at Barth the girls participated in a community impact project, cleaning up the Barth courtyard.
The Barth students completed a practice 5K in April and in May joined dozens of other schools, including those from Pottstown, in a 5K held at Wissahickon High School that boasted 809 girls and 1,100 coaches.
“Though the completion of the 5K the 14 Franklin girls learned they are capable of achieving any goal they set their mind to; even the impossible is possible,” wrote the four coaches at Franklin Elementary School.
“As a building we had presentations from Sarah Blum explaining what GOTR was all about. We were hooked from the start,” the five Lincoln coaches wrote in an e-mail.
“ We knew that we wanted to do this to help our Lincoln girls. The lessons that were shared were things that we knew our girls would benefit from,” the wrote. “They would be gaining so many qualities and lessons that they can take with them for the rest of their lives,” lessons that included confidence gained, fears overcome and friendships forged, they wrote.
At Lincoln, the 11-member team “started our lessons either in the gym or a near by classroom watching videos, playing games, and having discussions on whatever the daily topic was. After our lesson we would head outside, weather permitting, and challenged the girls with running laps around the building,” the coaches wrote.
“We started with five laps progressing all the way up to 15 laps equaling 3.1 miles. We were fortunate to be able to take the girls to Memorial Park for our practice 5k halfway through the season. The change of scenery really forced the girls to challenge themselves,” they wrote. “After each practice we finished in the gym with discussions, wrap-up, and their favorite thing- energy awards.”
At Franklin, the practice 5K was a school-wide affair.
“Before the practice 5K, the Franklin GOTR program had a rocking pep rally, with the entire school in attendance. All of the classrooms made flags, banners and signs to support the girls,” the Franklin coaches wrote.
“Each participant was called up by name and a slide show to music was presented spotlighting the season. The entire building participated in a brain energizer called the Cha Cha Slide. The school cheered the girls on as they left the building to start the practice 5K and continued to support them outside as they ran,” the wrote.
“As the girls completed each lap around the building a letter was written on their arm. After the ten laps they had the word the “INCREDIBLE” on their arm.”
At the middle school, the six-member team practiced twice a week from February leading up to the event in May. “During practices the girls participated in activities that built self esteem, encouraged leadership and teamwork, and focused on making smart choices,” the five middle school coaches wrote.
“My daughter truly enjoyed the experience and it has given her the dream to compete in track and field once she is in middle school,” Barth parent Danielle Prouty wrote in an e-mail to The Mercury.