Handing Off a Bracelet

Emma Rinne, left, is given a bracelet by Clark-Vitt Girls of the Run coach Megan Julius. The group of girls practices at the school and is training for a run in St. Louis. They receive bracelets for when they complete a running accomplishment. 

Making new friends, building confidence and celebrating differences are all goals of the new Girls on the Run program at Clark-Vitt Elementary.

Coached by fourth-grade teachers Megan Julius and Paula Kissinger, the program is designed to encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.

“It’s a youth development program for young girls to stay true to themselves and live free from stereotypes,” Julius said.

The 10-week program intertwines running with lessons to empower the girls to celebrate their bodies, honor their voices and embrace their gifts, Julius said.

While learning to love themselves, the girls also focus on living a healthy life.

Nationally, the Girls on the Run program is for girls in third through fifth grade, but because Clark-Vitt has fourth through sixth grades, the association allowed the program to be modified for the age group.

The first session began mid-February. A total of nine girls are involved, including one third-grade student.

Students include Ellie Pohlmann, Emma Rinne, Keely Glosemeyer, Gabby Storll, Ryleigh Swope, Mack Swope, Emma Davis, Sammy Blincoe and Emily Lowe.

Clark-Vitt Principal Dr. Jenny Davis attends practice as she is able. Parents also help out as practice partners.

The group meets each Tuesday and Thursday after school and is working toward running their first 5K in May.

“This celebratory, noncompetitive event is the culminating experience of the curriculum,” the Girls on the Run website says. “Completing the 5K gives the girls a tangible understanding of the confidence that comes through accomplishment as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. Crossing the finish line is a defining moment when the girls realize that even the seemingly impossible IS possible.”

Julius said she has wanted to start the program for several years and is glad it is now up and running.

“I think getting out there and moving is important,” she said, adding that she has been running as a hobby since she was 10 and has completed many races.

Up to 17 girls can participate in each session. If more are interested, the Girls on the Run organization selects participants through a lottery system, Julius noted.

Another program will be offered in the fall.

“I really want the girls to know that they are good just the way they are, and that they’re strong and smart,” Julius said. “I want them to feel good about themselves.”