Nine-year-old Kayden Guilbeaux doesn’t suffer bullies lightly.
“It makes me feel sad.”
Or unrealistic body images forced on girls through mass media.
“I think that girls shouldn’t do that — it’s just not right.”
How is a kid headed into fourth grade at Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau even aware of body image? Girls on the Run.
Begun in 1996 in North Carolina, the program has spread, largely through word of mouth, across the United States and Canada. It found its way into New Orleans, Houma and Baton Rouge several years ago, beginning in the capital city with two dozen participants at two schools and growing to more than 500 girls at 30 schools in BR alone.
The semester-long program held in the fall and spring is ostensibly, as the name implies, about training for a 5K race, the final celebration of Girls on the Run. But GOTR isn’t solely about physical fitness.
“While they are training for a 5K, they’re doing so much more than that,” says Hydie Wahlborg, executive director of Girls on the Run Louisiana. “At each team meeting they’re presented with a lesson that is designed to give them tools to deal with issues that girls their age deal with as they grow into adolescence. So they’re learning how to deal with gossip and bullying and how to have a positive body image, how to be part of a team, and beyond that how to recognize that they’re part of more than their peer group — they’re part of their community and part of the world.”
Girls on the Run, designed for kids in third through fifth grade, is the sister program to Girls on Track, which continues the life lessons for girls in sixth through 8th grade. GOTR costs $160 per semester, but Wahlborg notes that the fee is based on a sliding scale determined by a family’s ability to pay, and nearly half the girls who participate do so for free thanks to scholarships funded by grants and corporate sponsorships.
|Girls on the Run participants at Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau|
Back in Acadiana, Kayden’s mom, Amber Guilbeaux, was so impressed by the program after she and Kayden participated in a GOTR 5K in Baton Rouge that she became coach of her daughter’s team. Her team nickname: Coach Awesome.
“I love coaching it, and I’ll probably continue to coach even after my daughter moves on,” Amber says. “I love watching the girls — you see them grow not only physically, but you see them change right before your eyes over the 10 weeks. In the beginning they’re walking more and at the end they’re running more. And seeing them grow as a person — you see them form friendships — brings me so much joy.
“It’s changed me as a person; it’s just filled a part of me that was missing. I wish they would’ve had something like that when I was young.”
Both Amber Guilbeaux and Wahlborg, who has had two daughters in GOTR, say girls today are bombarded with images in popular culture of how they should behave, how they should dress, how their bodies should look — catalysts for gossip, bullying and self-destructive behavior. Teaching girls to respect themselves as they are, and to do the same with others, is the prime objective of the program. Getting fit and making exercise part of their day-to-day routine is lagniappe.
“We know that girls, when they reach adolescence, they go into this place that we call the girl box, and it’s morphed into what they think they should be instead of who they really are,” Wahlborg says. “We want to inspire girls to stay true to themselves and that’s what Girls on the Run does. The curriculum is based on research in adolescent growth and development and it was evaluated and studied and proven that girls who go through the program leave the program feeling more empowered and confident with a more positive body image.”
Training for the 5K gives the girls a common goal. But it’s the fellowship and self-esteem lessons along the way that really matter.
Last fall was the inaugural GOTR at the Grand Coteau all-girls Catholic school. Amber Guilbeaux says they had eight girls that first semester. It more than doubled into two teams by the spring, and more participants are expected when the program resumes for the approaching fall semester.
“Our school, thankfully, is so 100 percent behind it — they love everything that’s behind Girls on the Run, what it teaches besides the running,” she says. “You can see it in the girls; it teaches them to be better girls.”
Wahlborg has been in discussions with the Lafayette Parish School System about starting GOTR teams in the Hub City. She says the LPSS has been receptive to the program.
But there’s no better recruiter for Girls on the Run than the girls themselves. “It’s so much fun,” gushes Kayden Guilbeaux, who may be short on words but doesn’t lack for enthusiasm. “You learn how to be positive. You do fun activities.”
For more on the program, visit GOTR’s website at GirlsOnTheRunGBR.org.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
C & C Technologies, HIT Fitness, R3 Sciences, the Acadiana Symphony Association and the United Way of Acadiana recognized for innovation.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra has decided to end its traditional Independence Day spectacular known as Red White & Boom.
Under the deal, Teche shareholders would get 1.162 shares of IberiaBank for each share of Teche stock.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The must have pieces this season
Dave Perkins, LCG Comp Plan honored along with local architects and designers at the 2014 INDesign Awards
Greg Manuel’s Lafayette-based residential development company is taking advantage of exponential industrial growth in Lake Charles.
Longtime Lafayette retailer ventures online.
It’s not how aggressive or conservative you are — it’s planning for risk that matters most.
Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.
Regional bank bids farewell to Downtown May 30
ABiz takes a look back at the most noteworthy moments for the local banking industry over the last year.
Most experts say short-term interest rates will be unchanged through 2014, but long-term rates are inching up.
Largest recruitment event in Acadiana returns May 21 to the Cajundome Convention Center
A lawyer’s ad should only be a starting point, as there is much more to consider when seeking quality representation.
Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.
The annual juried competition recognizes excellence in architecture, interior design and historic preservation in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.
Cypress Bayou GM hosts open house.
New hires, promotions, transfers in Acadiana business
The scion of a landmark Four Corners restaurant climbs back into Lafayette’s culinary scene as franchisee for a popular burger chain.