Youth sports nonprofit Girls on the Run L.A. is one of 200 chapters across the world, and has empowered over 180,000 girls through athleticism and self growth.
As a 10 week after school program for young girls in grades third through eighth, GOTRLA celebrates self-confidence and fitness through weekly 90 minute practices and team bonding. The program is specifically designed to physically and emotionally prepare girls for a 5K race that concludes the curriculum.
“This is about empowering young women and about letting them know that they are enough just the way they are and giving them the tools to last a lifetime, whether it be positive self-talk or feeling good in their own skin through athletics,” GOTRLA Program Director Katie Bradshaw said.
As girls enter into their key ages of adolescence, they face numerous societal pressures on how they should act or how they should look, which is detrimental to their self esteem and can lead to heightened anxiety and depression, according to Bradshaw.
GOTRLA’s primary mission is to combat those very pressures by inspiring girls to be healthy and confident by using a creative curriculum that incorporates running and self empowerment.
“We really want to give them a positive, non-competitive running environment so that these girls can have a positive experience in both individual and team running,” Bradshaw said.
A major aspect of the curriculum is the celebratory 5 kilometer race that girls train for during their 10 weeks.
At first, the race can seem intimidating and impossible, Bradshaw said, but after girls are able to successfully run the race they feel a great sense of unparalleled accomplishment.
“That transfer effect of taking girls who don’t run at all from the beginning of the program, to girls who can complete a 5K, which is 3.1 miles, is incredible,” Bradshaw said. “That the feeling of ‘can do’ can really last a lifetime.”
Alongside Bradshaw, there are more than 1,000 volunteer coaches who each aim to serve as mentors and role models for these girls to look up to.
With core values of confidence, care, character, connections, and competence, Girls on the Run is really meant to be a safe and positive environment for girls that fosters a sense of accomplishment and self-love in such a crucial point in their adolescence.
“If we could all bottle confidence and give it to people wouldn’t we do that?” Bradshaw said. “This program essentially does that and that is just beautiful and empowering at the very core.”
This story was produced through the HS Insider summer internship program which is supported by funding from LA84 Foundation.