Sioux Falls, SD
A group of girls sit around, laughing, joking, and enjoying each other's company. Like most girls ages 10 or 11, the young ladies don't seem to have a care in the world, but that may not be the case. They can face some pretty tough stuff, that is why the girls and youth director at Embe, Stacy Stahl, sets up the program "Girls On The Run".
"It's an after school program that girls can come be around positive role models and mentors, all of our leaders are volunteer women in the community that are just passionate about working with girls, lead out lessons and building confidence and self-esteem in young girls," Stahl said.
"Girls On The Run" is a national organization. During the school year for ten weeks, coaches and mentors devote their time to teaching girls in the 3rd through 8th grade about the problem with gossiping and bully and positive outcomes of community service, exercise and more. Stahl says at this age it is a crucial time for positive influences.
"If we can get to these girls and teach them something about ways to be positive and healthy, that's our goal," Stahl said, "It's a great opportunity for them to meet other girls, positive friendships, and additional good mentors or them."
And the young girls agree that they have met some pretty awesome friends.
"When I first started 'Girls On The Run' I only knew a couple of people there, but you learn everybody's names so it becomes a lot of fun because everyone knows each other," Kate said.
Kate, Emma, Maleah, and Avery have learned a lot from the mentors and coaches in the program. From dealing with issues at school to helping in the community, even building up the endurance to run a 5K.
"They almost kind of feel like they are relatives or they are family, and I really like how they encourage you a lot. They are always there for you and they help you with problems and they run with you if you don't have anyone to run with," said Avery.
"After school you may have had a hard day, and the coaches help and they make you feel better," Maleah said.
"You can just be yourself and it helps me with problems in life and stuff and it helps you feel more confidant and it makes me have more self-esteem," Emma said.
And at the end of the program they run in a non-completive 5K, and all the training they get in the 10-weeks helps them succeed.
"When you finally get to your 5K it's so much fun to be with your coaches and your teammates before you race to encourage each other," said Emma.
Some of the coaches and mentors, who are parents to these girls, get emotional seeing the girls complete the race.
"I'm so proud, and every year at that 5K I lose it every single time those girls cross the finish line," Coach Sara Lefebvre said.
“Girls On The Run” is now registering girls for the upcoming school year. The program also needs approximately 200 women from the community to volunteer to be a mentor and coach. If you are interested in learning more about the program or becoming a volunteer, visit www.embe.org.
Eye on KELOLAND