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Standing Together to Support All Girls

By Heather Pressley, PhD on 08/08/2017 | General

Girl Squad. Stand Together. Build each other up. Positive mindset. These are what Girls on the Run is all about. Sometimes, because of our name, people see us as “only” a running program but Girls on the Run is so much more than that! We teach girls important skills they can use in their real lives, like goal setting, communication, decision making and standing up for themselves and others, all while being more physically active through running, games and activities. Every single time one of our teams across the country meets, we challenge and defy the mean girl myth. Fifteen girls come together to connect as a team, cheer each other on and contribute to their communities. Together, Girls on the Run girls are out to change the world! 

Last week, I visited our Girls on the Run summer camp that we’re currently developing. This camp brought together girls from different schools, different races and ethnicities, and different economic groups for one week to explore the topic of friendship. On the first day, girls naturally divided into their separate groups, but after each activity, each game, each song and chant, you could see girls connecting with someone new. Older girls taking younger girls under their wing. Using our getting to know you cards during their workout, girls who never would have met were suddenly chatting up a storm. You could hear surprise in their voices, “Me too!” when they found connections with each other and “That’s cool” when they learned something new. After camp, I led a small group in a discussion about their week and each girl shared that their highlight of the week was meeting new girls and making new friends. When I asked them how it happened, they pointed out specific games or activities that introduced them to someone new. In a final picture of the group you could see girls standing together, with each other, full of confidence and deeply connected. This is success. 

What makes us unique is that our program is specifically designed to help girls make friends with one another. We do this through our curriculum and by teaching our volunteer coaches how to help girls foster these friendships. Throughout the 10-week season, girls play fun, cooperative games that bring them together to reach a common goal and teach them about their uniqueness as well as their connectedness. Because we have a non-competitive environment that focuses on each girl’s individual growth, girls support each other and cheer each other on as the team prepares for the celebratory end of season 5K. At the 5K, the girls are beaming with pride as they cross the finish line, sometimes holding hands with teammates or even as a whole team.

What we do at GOTR is not by accident. We know that as girls become more confident and competent throughout the program, they are more able and willing to try something new, connect with others and know they do not need to put someone else down to raise themselves up. In fact, they learn how to stand up for themselves and others - which creates a strong, bonded girl squad who will include anyone who wants to join and reaches out to girls who could use a squad

As a Girls on the Run national partner, Justice provides funding that helps to ensure any girl who wants to join a Girls on the Run team is able to participate. For their fall campaign, Justice has teamed up with Girls on the Run to remind girls that every girl is awesome when we all stand together! See how Justice is fostering girl power and encouraging girls to be their best in their Standing Together back-to-school look book


Heather Pressley, PhD


As a teacher and administrator in public, charter and independent schools for 18 years, Heather Pressley continues to educate the world through consulting and writing. Along with geeking out over childhood development research, Heather navigates the world as a Gen Xer among Millennial parents and enjoys spending time in her garden discussing gender roles and race with her daughter. 

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