(Sept. 13, 2017) Catherine Read talks with Katey Comerford, Executive Director of Girls on the Run – Northern Virginia (GOTRNOVA). This program is designed as a curriculum based program for girls in the 3rd to 8th grades and is largely a school based program reliant on a network of volunteer coaches. GOTRNOVA is one of 200 independent councils under the umbrella of Girls on the Run International and serves the Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Arlington & Alexandria area with 140 participating schools.
While running is a component of the program, the main focus is to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. The program came about as a way of addressing issues that often undermine girls as they enter puberty – body positivity, healthy self image, confidence, self respect, peer pressure – and addresses the skill development needed to navigate the transition from girlhood to their teenage years.
The program is ten weeks long in the Fall and in the Spring, and meets twice a week either before or after school for an hour to an hour and a half. Volunteer coaches who have been trained in the curriculum, conduct the meetings. Every year 500 adult volunteers step up to complete the training and to conduct the meetings over the course of the ten week program. And while there is a fee associated with the program, GOTRNOVA also provides scholarship assistance for those with financial need. The program culminates in a 5K run bringing girls and their families together at different venues in Northern Virginia. Corporate sponsorships make events of this size possible.
In addition to the school based programs, there are also some community based programs for girls that take the program out of the school setting and closer to where they live. There are some exploratory steps being taken to roll out programs at area apartment complexes as well. Transportation can often be a challenge to participating in before and after school programs, so this model will address bringing the program to where the girls are and offering weekend meetings as a way to build greater participation.
The Heart & Sole program for girls in Middle School focuses on the issues that are unique to girls navigating puberty and the social, emotional and physiological changes that go along with that. The program gives them a safe space with a trained adult leader to look at ways to build healthy relationships, to strengthen their confidence and to build a positive self image.