Fifteen sixth-grade girls from Elizabeth Davis Middle School involved in the Girls on Track program committed their community service project with the making of a quilt to honor the Boston Marathon victims. The quilt is now on its way to the Boston Marathon Association and will be shared with all the charity organizations involved with the marathon and then placed in a permanent location with the association.
The Girls on Track program at the middle school level is part of Girls on the Run which is a positive youth development program that combines 5K training with an interactive curriculum to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls. Meeting twice a week for three months, the curriculum addresses the physical, emotional, mental and social well-being of the girls. The community service project was their final assignment. Each of the girls completed a square with a message or design. Many of the squares had messages sharing their thoughts and prayers for the victims and to “stay strong and carry on.”
Touched by the messages from the girls, Dawn Watson, sixth-grade counselor and one of three coaches for the Girls on Track program, said this is her first year volunteering with the program and it has been an inspiration for her. “It’s been fabulous for me. Very inspiring. I have been able to develop relationships with my students that I am going to stay with during their middle school years. It’s a close relationship. You can’t get this during their time in school.”
Jorli Swingen, also a counselor, is in her second year of volunteering with the program and Anna Stone, eighth-grade history teacher, has volunteered for the last three years. “The change you see in the girls is amazing,” said Swingen. “It’s [the program] more for the relationship forming - interacting with the world. Exercising is a part – it is a running group – but they take away so much more...” Swingen came up with the idea for the quilt and she and her mother, Dr. Judy Swingen, piece the quilt together.
Girls on the Run was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina and became an International 501c3 organization in 2000. The Chesterfield County Health Department supported a single site in 2007. There are now 20 sites at 12 elementary schools and eight middle schools. “It is not a school program per say, but the school is a very important part of it,” said Jody Enoch, Nurse Manager, School Health Services, Chesterfield County Health Department and Director of Girls on the Run Chesterfield County.
Coordinated and managed through the health department, schools are chosen based on population need, the interest of the principal, availability of coaches and funding availability. Costs for the program and the celebrated 5K runs around $1,000 per site. Enoch said funding has always been a challenge and has received generous support from Bon Secour’s Richmond Health System, the Brandermill Rotary, a local insurance company and Chesterfield County Schools by providing space, staffing and promotion for the program. “It is very labor intensive, but worth every minute,” said Enoch. “The biggest challenge is trying to carve out time for fund raising.”
For more information about Girls on the Run and if your pre-teen’s school has a program contact Jody Enoch at Jody.firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations may be mailed to Girls on the Run, c/o Chesterfield County Health Department, Box 100, Chesterfield, VA 23832.