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Study Shows Girls On The Run Helps Participants Beyond the Curriculum

Courtesy of Girls on the Run of Southeastern Wisconsin

The world can put a lot of stressors on grade school students – especially young girls – in areas such as confidence, health, and creating a positive body image. Girls on the Run of Southeastern Wisconsin aims to help girls navigate these challenges through a 10 week program that includes group lessons for a 5K run.

Since 2007, Girls on the Run, or GOTR, has helped more than 5,000 Milwaukee girls in grades three through eight. Leaders of the group point to five C’s - Competence, Confidence, Character, Connection, and Contribution. They say the goal is to instill habits that will help girls far beyond their time in the program.

Now, GOTR has data it says shows it’s working. A longitudinal study of the program's impact, conducted by the University of Minnesota's Maureen Weiss, found: 97% of program participants learned critical life skills they can use in and outside of school, 85% improved in the areas of the five C's, and 90% said they use what they learn through GOTR to help others.

"These are really impressive numbers that these girls, their self esteem, their self confidence, their physical activity is all increasing," says Tina Jones, executive director of the local chapter of Girls on the Run.

Jones notes that establishing confidence in young girls is an important part of the curriculum, because without it, all other development - mental and physical - can suffer.

"First we address the girl herself, because you're not going to be able to reach out to others and help others until you really understand who you are and what you're made of and what you can do," she says.

In addition to the longitudinal study, GOTR has also started releasing trend reports. The first report looks at technology use by children and teens, and explains what the program is doing to proactively address the issue.

"We understand that people want to hear really concrete reasons how this program is helping us today and deal with the issue that (parents and kids) are all dealing with," says Jones.

While participants improving life skills - such as conflict resolution and physical activity - are valuable, she says, ultimately it's about what the program can give girls each season, face-to-face.

"That connection may not have happened in the typical school day," Jones notes. "It's when these girls have this safe environment with Girls on the Run that they're able to really flourish and connect with others."

Girls on the Run of Southeastern Wisconsin will host its annual Sneaker Soiree Friday at the Italian Community Center. 

Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.