PEACE's Girls on the Run
The subject of a recent Chronicle article, PEACE's Girls on the Run (GOTR) program has seen both physical and mental health benefits, helping the girls with self-esteem and relationships.
After school at KIPP PEACE Elementary, one classroom is a teeming bouquet of little girls. All colors, shapes and sizes, they are listening attentively to Marilin Rosas, 8.
"It's my brothers," she says, as serious as a judge. "They mock me when I get home from school."
These empowered girls not only know the solution to Marilin's blues, they know she knows the solution, too.
"It's called a breather," Marilin says. "That means I stop, I breathe, I think, and then I respond."
Before she joined Girls on the Run, a national exercise- and character-building program, Marilin would whine at her siblings, which only escalated the squabbling.
"Now I tell them how I feel," she says. "I say, 'I don't like it when you come into my room and start mocking me. It's really irritating, it hurts my feelings, and I would like you to stop. In the future, would you please not do that anymore.' "
She pauses, triumphant, then answers the unspoken question in a room full of raised eyebrows.
"Yes, it works!"
Holly Oller, Teacher and Coach
Holly is a 1st-grade teacher at KIPP PEACE Elementary School and a coach for the 3rd-grade Girls on the Run team.
1. Why did you start Girls on the Run?
Last school year, I worked a lot with the 2nd grade. The group of girls in that grade level had a hard time getting along, dealing with anger, responding appropriately to frustration, and controlling their emotions and relationships. I felt that most of the girls really needed mentorship. They needed the skills to help them recognize their emotions and a way to build self-esteem. GOTR does all of that and more. It teaches girls how to be healthy in mind, body, and soul. GOTR builds meaningful relationships. The program teaches them strategies to deal with peer pressure, media influences, and self-esteem, while finding healthy outlets for their emotions (i.e. running). GOTR has been a very successful program with the 3rd grade girls in its initial year at KIPP PEACE.
2. How did you hear about GOTR?
A family friend’s daughter participated in GOTR last year and told me about it. It sounded like something the girls at KIPP PEACE could benefit from. So I researched it more and decided it was exactly what they needed.
3. Can you see the girls applying their lessons in class? If so, how?
We have gotten some good feedback from several of the girls’ teachers. Some of the girls have really been trying to apply the BrThRR (breather) which teaches them to Stop, Breathe, Think, Respond, and Review when they are angry or upset. The girls really care about GOTR and want to be good representatives of the program. Teachers are able to remind them they are GOTR and therefore they are leaders. It doesn’t work every single time, but this is our first year and we are excited by the growth we have already seen. I have faith it will continue to make them stronger and better leaders in the seasons to come.
4. Has any specific girl benefited from GOTR the most?
There are several girls that have really benefited from the program. Two really come to mind though. One has a hard time speaking respectfully to adults and controlling her anger. Over the course of the year she has made steps in trying to build better relationships with the adults in her life and she has even apologized for her behavior on a couple of occasions (she will tell you she never apologizes so this is a big deal!). Another is probably the girl that has benefited the most. She joined the program during its second season in January. Shortly after joining she got in big trouble. Since then she has been taking GOTR very seriously. She also comes to me every morning so we can discuss ways for her to start her day positively and to find strategies that help her control her emotions. Having her take the time to reflect on what she has learned from GOTR and how to apply it to her everyday has earned her praise from her coaches as well as some of her teachers. We are all very proud of both of them!
5. Who else is a part of your team?
I couldn’t have done it this year without the support of the coaches (Ms. Christmon, Ms. Pinion, and Ms. Tamez) and our Athletic Director Mr. Banks. They have been a real help during this initial year with GOTR. We are also planning on growing the program next year to include 5th graders at Liberation. The program will then be 3rd-5th grade. I am also looking into a similar program for the boys as they constantly ask me to start a “Boys on the Run”!