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Manchester Middle School girls up and running

5/15/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Joyce Rainey Long

Fifth-graders Reagan Hunt, Riley Miller and Bobbie Jo Boggs exercise after school as part of the Girls on the Run program.
Nancy Hyatt, a Girls on the Run coach and special education teacher, runs with her daughter, Chloe, a fifth-grader.
Photos: Joyce Rainey Long
NEW FRANKLIN — Twenty-six girls at Manchester Middle School are on track with confidence and fitness, thanks to two new after-school programs.

Girls on the Run for third- through fifth-graders and Girls on Track for sixth-through eighth-graders meet after school two days a week, said Michelle Lyons, a sixth-grade math teacher and coordinator of the two programs. The girls learn life skills through interactive lessons and running.

Part of a national nonprofit program that began in 1996 in Charlotte, N.C., Girls on the Run and Girls on Track helps girls embrace their inner strength to successfully navigate life, according to the website www.girlsontherun.org. More than 130,000 girls in North America are involved in the programs.

A celebratory, noncompetitive run will take place May 18 at Lock 3 Park in Akron for all area girls and their families who are involved in the programs, said Lyons. The run is the culmination of the 10-week program, she said.

“A girl on the run is a positive, well-rounded person and we help with coping skills to deal with situations,” said Lyons, who started the programs at Manchester after hearing about how successful they were from friends at other districts.

Topics addressed include gossip, nutrition, bullying and self-esteem, and the programs will be offered again in the fall.

According to the website, “The Girls on the Run lessons encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development. Participants explore and discuss their own beliefs around experiences and challenges girls face at this age … The girls explore how they can positively connect with and shape the world.”

At each after-school meeting, the girls and their five volunteer coaches, who are teachers at the middle school, begin with an activity and game. Each 75-minute session ends with running, said Lyons, who is a coach for Girls on the Run.

“This makes you have courage in yourself, and you learn how to deal with bad stuff in your life,” said fifth-grader Brooklyn Delaney.

The cost for the program is $150 per girl, and scholarships are available through www.girlsontherun.org.

“These programs help with learning how to be assertive and have gratitude,” said Nancy Hyatt, a special education teacher and Girls on the Run coach. “Girls learn how to stand up for themselves and to believe in themselves.”

The programs have made a difference for the students, said Lyons.

“It’s really fun being with people you might know a little at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the program, you know them really well,” said fifth-grader Haley Webb.

“This helps with self-esteem, and it’s OK not to look like everyone else,” said seventh-grade Summer Albaugh. “You should be 100 percent you and love it.”

The two programs for girls empower their lives, according to Allyson Mobley, coach of Girls on Track and a family and consumer sciences teacher at the middle school and Manchester High School.

“We want the students to become the best person they can be,” she said, adding running is a way to empower their lives.

Stacy Pietrochini, a Girls on Track coach and guidance counselor, said the program teaches the girls to make good choices and to be individuals.

“We are seeing girls in the program beaming with confidence, and that is spilling over in school and everything else in life,” said Manchester Middle School Principal James Miller.

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