Girls on the Run: the 26-year-old nonprofit organization teaches young girls helpful life skills


Credit: Kimberly Moss

London Lee (left) and Aluara Osborn (right) running the celebratory 5K with smiles on their faces. The Girls on the Run 5K was at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Isabella Figueroa, Chief Copy Editor

It is never easy to start something by yourself. Molly Baker in 1996, took it upon herself to start Girls on the Run in Charlottesville, North Carolina, with a team of thirteen girls.
Since then, the mission for Girls on the Run is to: “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running” as stated on their website.
In 2002, Girls on the Run Greater Kalamazoo was formed. Girls on the Run Greater Kalamazoo has served over 32 thousand girls.
Isabella Ramsdell, like 200 thousand girls across all 50 states, did Girls on the Run for two years during the 2015-2017 years at Prairie Ridge Elementary. Ramsdell thinks that some aspects of the program helped, like learning how to become a team member and socializing with other classmates.
Girls on the Run has been doing a celebratory 5K (3.1 miles) for 26 years to celebrate what the girls have learned socially and emotionally throughout the ten-week season. Looking back, the best part was seeing the other people on the end of the season celebratory 5K field waiting to race.
¨Before the actual run – when we were all on the field – you could see how many people were actually doing it besides yourself, so I thought that was fun,” said Ramsdell.

The current Interim Executive Director for Girls on the Run Greater Kalamazoo is Bobbie Smith. Smith has been with the organization and has worked in many different positions since 2011.
Smith wishes Girls on the Run or a similar program was around when she was younger, and she thinks it would have helped her social and emotional skills today. Even just working at Girls on the Run and being a coach has helped her.
¨Many of the lessons taught by our amazing volunteer coaches are things that I use every day — at home with my family, at work, and with my friends,¨ Smith continued ¨for instance, learning that there are no good or bad feelings, rather comfortable and uncomfortable ones. Then learning how to identify and name them and then share them with people you trust.¨
While Smith works at Girls On the Run, being a coach for her daughter’s 5th grade team is one of her fondest and most special memories.
“It was the last year of GOTR for her, and was so special to see her learn with and help to lead the GOTR girls on her team! Plus, wearing matching running outfits at the 5K was pretty fun!” said Smith.
Coaching is a crucial part of the organization as it takes 300 coaches each season throughout the 50+ locations in Kalamazoo.
LN senior, Clara Moss, has been a volunteer coach for two seasons at Parkwood-UpJohn Elementary School.
¨I really enjoyed it when I did Girls on the Run in elementary school. Me and my friends still talk about it today,” Moss continued. “I feel like it’s a really good foundation for young girls growing up, and I wanted to make sure it continued.”
Moss enjoys coaching because of the positive impact it has on her life and the young girls she coaches.
“I love interacting with girls who were in the same position that I once was,” said Moss.
Alaura Osborn is a fourth grader who participated in Girls on the Run this year.
Osborn enjoys doing the energy awards and going outside. She didn’t enjoy Girls on the Run at first, but after she realized how it made her feel, she started to enjoy it more.
“When I started I was like, I didn’t want to do it. Then, the more I got to see the smiles on people’s faces and how it was about girls and teamwork, I wanted to be a part of that,” said Osborn.
Osborn has been able to strengthen connections with her friends and her friends that are in different classes like Za’Khari Washbun.
This is Washbun’s first year being on Girls on the Run, and she plans to come back next year. Her favorite part is running and seeing her friends after school. Overall, it makes her feel better and excited.
¨Coach Oliva, you, and the other coaches make me feel amazing, when I am having a rough day or just feeling ‘blah,’ y’all make me feel better,” said Washbun.
Osborn and Washbun are nervous about the celebratory 5K, but with a couple more practices they think they will be okay.
Girls on the Run makes young girls like Osborn, Washbun and Moss more confident to be who they are, and they recommend it to other people who are thinking of doing it.
“Everybody who’s a girl should try it,” said Osborn.