Running for joy

he intermediate school guidance counselor faces the upset daily.

One preteen girl is upset that a friend won’t talk to her. Two others are fighting about a boy. They post derogatory comments about each other on social-media websites.

Girls in the fifth and sixth grade are starting to bow to peer pressure, some have self esteem issues and nearly all could use help navigating puberty, said Jennifer George, guidance counselor at Custer Baker Intermediate School in Franklin.

George and a parent volunteer, Jennifer Mann, are trying to get the county plugged into a national program called Girls on the Run.

The twice weekly program has curriculum that pairs running with the lessons of growing up, such as teaching girls how they can be themselves. At the end of the 12-week program, girls complete a 5K that they spent part of their time training for.

“I meet with a lot of girls who would benefit from this program,” George said. “It is normal issues for adolescents, but any time you can combat them proactively is better than dealing with them re-actively in my office.”

First, the national program has to accept a council application from Johnson County.

“Starting a council is a pretty big undertaking,” George said.

Each applicant has to raise $7,500 to start a council. The money goes toward getting the curriculum and would allow Mann and George to get the training they need to, in turn, train volunteers and eventually allow a Johnson County Council of Girls on the Run to become a nonprofit.

“It is more than just running, it comes with a curriculum,” Mann said.

A movie night at the school and other donations have netted them about $2,500 in a fund with the Johnson County Community Foundation. Part of the application outlines a fundraising plan that will allow the group to be a non-profit and pay the annual dues to the national club, George and Mann said.

Mann and George also had to pick volunteers to be on a steering committee that would eventually be a board of oversight over the council. The national council outlined what jobs must be covered and who could cover them, such as a someone to manage the money.

The work is worth it, they said.

Mann has a daughter that is the target age for the club and sees the issues that she and her peers face, she said.

She sees inappropriate language on social media and hears the problems that her daughter is already facing in intermediate school, Mann said.

The club would help her sort through the problems and would teach girls her age how to take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally, she said.

“I can remember being in fifth and sixth grade and wanting to conform,” Mann said. “Having daughters, I didn’t want that to be something they would have to do.”

At a glance

Girls on The Run needs $5,000 to complete an application to start a local chapter of the national organization.

To donate, go to and click on donate. Put “Girls on the Run,” in the comment box.

Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.