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Week Four: Building Trust

October 6, 2011

Shannon Foster joins us this Fall as our Girls on the Run of Atlanta Intern. She’s a student at Georgia Gwinnett College and will be shadowing three Girls on the Run and Girls on Track programs in metro Atlanta. 

Girls on the Run creates lessons that develop the overall well being of girls, but it is also creating a safe place for girls to grow together and create new friendships. This week, I personally experienced that atmosphere of trust and community that has been blossoming from the first week. Over the past four weeks, the Gwinnett Elementary and DeKalb Middle school groups have gone from just a group of girls exercising together, to a community of friends who are beginning to relax with each other and confide in one another.

Monday, as we waited for the coaches to bring in the New Balance shoes that the girls were given last week, I talked to Katie about her trip to Stone Mountain with her family. A few other girls came to sit with us and they began telling me about their families and siblings, how their brothers are always trying to get more time on the computer or their mom was constantly reminding them to do homework. Just being in this conversation with them, before the lesson even started, I saw how they have started to share their lives with one another and look for encouragement from the other girls.

During the lesson, I watched the girls answering questions and acting out scenarios as part of the activity. While some of these girls knew each other the first week, they were still fairly shy. This week, I saw a group that was comfortable with each other. Some of them laid on their stomachs casually and answered questions about healthy food, and even the quietest girls were beginning to talk. The mood was relaxed as the girls trusted the group enough to share their thoughts.

At the middle school, where the group of girls has been even quieter this semester, I saw the same trusted connections being fostered. Sixth grader Kenzi and eighth grader Andrea shared with me how GOTR not only teaches them how to handle emotional stress but also has become a place where they have friends to help them work through every day stress. “[GOTR] will help you deal with stress because they get you to think of stuff, and you get to laugh with friends and stuff,” said Kenzi.

As I walked the track with Emily and Julia, they shared with me the struggles of adapting to middle school, admitting that “it’s kind of confusing,” with all of the classes and getting to their lockers. When I asked them though, they fully agreed that GOTR has become a safe-haven from all of the stress, not only from school but family as well. Continuing around the track, they asked me questions about being a writer, and Emily shared her story about breaking her thumb on the trampoline. Other groups of girls walked past us, talking about their day with each other. That is when I realized how GOTR is providing guidance for individual growth, but also it is growing support groups, where girls can freely be themselves and openly talk.

Jalysia, an elementary girl from Gwinnett, said that GOTR helps encourage the girls to be healthy “because you run and exercise and play games while you run.” She said, “they have you to play games but you’re actually running and doing the games.” The same way GOTR combines both exercising and fun activities, they also have combined individual and team growth. Even though the girls have only completed a third of the program, the teams are already strengthening and the girls running farther every week.

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