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.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
The easy one-piece way to style
Comfy feet for long days
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Newsy bits for the whole fam
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Don't forget: our annual Festival International contest begins Thursday! Win. Cool. Stuff.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
State bar foundation bestows honor on founder and managing partner of NeunerPate
This Wednesday, April 23, marks the first full day of INNOV8 Lafayette.
National awards recognize outstanding achievement in leadership development and leadership programs
A federal court magistrate has issued a seven-page schedule of hearings, conferences and deadlines leading up to January’s trial aimed at determining how much money BP will owe in Clean Water Act fines as a result of its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The state’s “greedy trial lawyers” haven’t scared this oil giant away.
Local boutique celebrates all things green
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Tender meat and crispy bread create a white-linen-worthy sandwich
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
INNOV8 Lafayette launches its weeklong festival dedicated to cultivating innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.
Smaller Microsoft Store installations sell a wide array of Microsoft products (Windows phones, Surface tablets and Xbox consoles) but don’t include everything.
Dirk Powell and Cedric Watson will perform together during an intimate gig at Parish Ink, 310 Jefferson St., from 9-11:30 p.m. Wednesday.
See cutting-edge technologies Thursday in brief presentations/demonstrations from 3rd Dimension Media, C&C Technologies, Cimation and UL Lafayette School of Engineering.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.