In the long run
A new YWCA Tulsa program is helping young girls be healthy while increasing their self-esteem.
Esthrasia Jones, Oceanna Lary, Danae Kuehn, Breanna Chatman, Bayleigh Castillo and Chyna Benton are students at Gilcrease Elementary. They will participate in YWCA Tulsa’s Girls on the Run program for 8- to 12-year-old girls beginning Jan. 28.
On any given day, a young girl encounters countless images on TV and billboards, in movies and magazines, and on and on — images that present an unrealistic standard for beauty, and images many girls will needlessly try to emulate.
According to the Social Issues Research Center, the current media ideal of thinness for women is achievable by less than 5 percent of the female population.
So, what is healthy, yet attainable, and how does a girl learn to decipher reality from the clutter of media exposure? Moreover, how can she overcome the odds of being one of the almost 30 percent of Oklahoma children who are overweight or obese?
This month, YWCA Tulsa will begin hosting a nationally recognized program designed to help young girls answer these questions.
Girls on the Run is a nonprofit organization begun in 1996 by Molly Barker in North Carolina with the mission of educating and
preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living. The YWCA Tulsa program utilizes a three-pronged social, physical and mental health approach, offering a self-esteem curriculum that creatively integrates running.
YWCA Tulsa was selected to offer Girls on the Run to 8- to 12-year-old girls, beginning this month with a group at Gilcrease Elementary and a group at Union Public Schools.
“There really isn’t another program like this in Tulsa,” says Melissa Baker, Girls on the Run council director. “We found a lot of girls are in sports when they are young, but it falls off after sixth grade, so we want to promote staying active.”
Girls on the Run is a 10- to 12-week mentoring and fitness after-school program for girls in grades 3-8. It follows a 24-session curriculum through which participants will make new friends, build confidence and practice habits that lead to a lifetime of health and fitness. At the end of the program, the girls participate in a 5K event — and they can finish the 5K any way they wish, from walking to skipping to running.
Program registration is $150 per season and is payable month to month. A limited number of scholarships is available, and participants do not have to be YWCA members.
Marlene Livaudais, director of sponsorships for the Tulsa Shock and YWCA board member, will serve as one of the first volunteer coaches for Girls on the Run in Tulsa.
“I’m most looking forward to meeting young women who are anxious to be healthy and helping them grow confidence and their overall wellness,” Livaudais says. “I hope we can inspire each girl to keep running and keep physically fit and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
That is exactly what Lakia Risby, community school coordinator for Gilcrease Elementary, hopes Girls on the Run will offer her students.
“Having lived, worked and worshipped in north Tulsa, I know a program like this is not something you would typically see,” Risby says. “It will help students have a healthy sense of worth and self-value that is not tied to what the media or television depict.
“It’s a holistic program, and it’s opening the conversation that explores who they really are and the things about themselves that make each one unique.”
Risby says she has two other reasons for signing on to be one of the first schools in Tulsa to offer Girls on the Run.
“I would like to see the relationships built between the girls and (the development of) healthy support of one another,” she says, adding, “I want them to see any sport or any activity and know they can be a part of it, and that they can accomplish it.”
- Become a volunteer coach or running buddy.
- Become a Girls on the Run site.
- Donate to provide a scholarship.
- Sign up on first-come, first-served basis (ages 8-12) at participating sites.
The Girls on the Run spring season is Jan. 28-April 27. The fall season begins in September.
For more information, visit www.ywcatulsa.org.