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.
San Fran wins the World Series; Sistine Chapel improvements; Kurds moving toward Syria and more national and international news for Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
Saints fans were to gather, make merry, eat/drink compliments of a new Downtown group and watch the Saints beat Carolina and claim 1st place in the NFC South. But...
Three bedroom traditional or four bedroom traditional in Lafayette
Our fav dress for all seasons
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram doesn't see his dramatic spike in production as any sort of validation.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is facing off one last time with her two main Republican challengers before next week's election.
Shoppers familiar with Louisiana-based Rouses Market might be surprised when they walk into the new third location set to open at the Corner of Johnston Street and Duhon Road south the Acadiana Mall on Wednesday.
Noted architect and co-founder/principal of Architects Southwest receives highest honor given to former student.
Know an innovator, job creator and visionary with a penchant for hard work? We want to know that person.
He’s pulling for Knezek and Hidalgo on his end of the parish but issued endorsements in three other districts as well.
Actually he’s not, but in this age of say anything, which the Harson campaign has perfected, we thought, ‘What the hell?’
Easy on shape, big on style
Four bedroom Lafayette home or a four bedroom Scott home
"This week, the Advertiser Editorial Board announced endorsements of Lafayette Parish School Board candidates. While I respect the newspapers’ right to make these endorsements, I do not agree with them."
In the vein of her literary hero Ernest Gaines, San Francisco Bay Area writer Natalie Baszile transforms a crop that’s mundane to some into a lush, beautiful thing and creates a world within her characters where relatives arrive in steady waves “like a river’s rising tide” and the soil is “dark and rich as ground French roast.”
If you care about the wellbeing of Louisiana’s college students, vote against Amendments 1 and 2.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Off a narrow gravel road running between a handful of mostly abandoned lots near a Mississippi River levee, down past sprawling oak trees and thick weeds, a lectern framed by banana trees has been set up in front of three short rows of folding chairs.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is heading to New Orleans this weekend to stir up voter support for Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Saints coach Sean Payton has spent much of his team's erratic season trying to build his players up.
The Daily Advertiser has weighed in on this year's LPSB elections with nine endorsements.
A Mandeville media consultant with big name political connections pleaded guilty Monday to a series of federal mail fraud charges.