Daily Journal

Girls in fifth and sixth grade often begin to have issues with peer pressure, self-esteem and self-image. To help girls navigate these matters, Jennifer George, guidance counselor at Custer Baker Intermediate School in Franklin, and parent volunteer Jennifer Mann are working to establish a local branch of the national program Girls on the Run.

The 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, although the emphasis is on teamwork and not competition. Some teams even dress in costumes or theater makeup and run as a group.

Girls are divided into teams, which are coached by volunteers. They attend practice twice a week, where they follow a curriculum with a different topic each time and participate in a game centered around that topic. Those topics might include being grateful, managing your emotions, picking friends, bullying and nutrition. The girls then head outside and do some warmup exercises and running to help them prepare for the 5K.

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

Girls on the Run has been successful for several years in Columbus, operated through Foundation For Youth. The program there has grown from 14 girls to more than 200. Last fall, the program was expanded to Brown and Jackson counties. The national program began in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

To start one here, the national program has to accept a council application from Johnson County. The applicant then has to raise $7,500 to pay for the curriculum, which 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.

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 nonprofit and pay the annual dues to the national club.

Mann and George said the work is worth it.

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 faces in intermediate school.

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. Girls on the Run has a proven record of success in helping girls navigate the minefield of development issues. We commend those seeking to start a local program and wish them success.

At issue

Girls face many emotional and developmental issues in middle school.

Our point

Girls on the Run has a record of success in helping girls develop a positive self-image and to make good decisions.