'Girls On The Run' to Encourage Female Youth
Organization promotes education, self-worth and physical fitness.
Plans are afoot to open in the fall a local chapter of the Girls on the Run program that promotes self-esteem through positive emotional, social, and physical development.
Hopatcong's site would pair up with the Hopatcong Municipal Alliance, said Alliance spokeswoman Marcia Fallon.
The local site would be the second in Sussex County, following Sparta, said Vikki Szabo, technical coordinator and co-owner of the Northern New Jersey Chapter of Girls on the Run. Her organization includes Bergen, Passaic and Hudson counties, and has a site in Ramsey.
The two local sites have a total of 90 girls from grades three to eight enrolled, Szabo said. There is a cost for girls to enroll in the program, Szabo said, but no girl has been turned away for financial reasons. Scholarships are in place to help, she said.
“The program focuses on education and physical fitness, combining efforts to raise self-esteem and walking, running or stepping,” she said. The program targets such activities as bullying, eating disorders and self-esteem and culminates in the girls joining a 5-K footrace, she said.
The local groups meet twice a week for 1.5 hours each session.
Fallon said the Hopatcong Alliance is seeking to use a public school or the borough’s civic center as a meeting place.
Girls on the Run has its beginning in Charlotte, N.C., when in 1996, Molly Barker developed an early version of the program. In 2000, Girls on the Run became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and today, the organization serves girls in over 200 cities across the United States and Canada, its website said.
A 2008 national report on girls’ self-esteem, supported by the Dove Self-Esteem fund, found that 62 percent of girls reported feeling insecure; 75 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported eating disorders, bullying and cutting themselves, smoking and drinking; 25 percent of such girls reported cutting themselves on purpose; 71 percent of girls with low self-esteem reported they did not feel pretty enough, thin enough or stylish enough.’
Girls on the Run offers separate program for grades three to five and six to eight.
For the lower grades, lessons encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development. Participants explore and discuss their own beliefs around experiences and challenges girls face at this age, the group’s website said.
“We start with helping the girls get a better understanding of who they are and what’s important to them. Then, we look at the importance of team work and healthy relationships. And, finally, the girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world,” the website says.
For the upper grades, the material is presented in a way that meets the needs of a more mature audience.
“The Girls on Track curriculum provides girls with the skills to shut out the noise of the external world that is attempting to limit who she is and to instead listen to her individual truth–the one that will lead her toward an enriching and contented life,” the group said.