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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Indian Hill’s “Girls On The Run” build strong, healthy and confident futures

By Moira Grainger

The GOTR team: Beth Rabenold, Nicole Seinen, Megan Slovenski, Margaux Higgins, Mandy Longbottom, Whitley Schoeny, Sarah Motawi (top row); Vicky Quintero, Milana Barrett, Kendall Higgins, Libby Holmes, Paige Rabenold, Molly Guinan, Louise Schoeny, Sarah Blemker (middle row); Caroline Chasar, Isabella Levental, Mallory Hardek, Marilyn Blemker, Lily Sacks, Marin Longbottom, Ave Seinen, Laurel Mouldrem (front row)
A highly contagious form of positivity was  circulating at Indian Hill Elementary School this past fall. 

From September through November, a group of six parent coaches and fifteen fourth and fifth grade girls have been discovering the power of Girls on the Run, a national program with local roots that encourages girls to recognize their individual strengths and celebrate connections with others.  Girls on the Run (GOTR) inspires girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. 

Mandy Longbottom and Beth Rabenold discuss the week’s curriculum

Open to all 4th and 5th grade girls, this year’s 15 participants were selected based on a lottery system performed by GOTR.  Practices began in mid-September and the program culminated with a 5K Run at Sawyer Point on November 18th. The team practiced two afternoons a week, rain or shine, with each girl’s commitment to 100% attendance. While the culminating event was the 5K race, the GOTR program helped these young athletes blossom on many levels along the way.

GOTR weekly worksheets reinforce self-confidence and skill ability
States the GOTR mission: “Girls on the Run is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.” Girls on the Run Greater Cincinnati was established in 2005. Serving 11 counties in the Greater Cincinnati region, the organization is centrally located in Hyde Park. Since its first season serving 12 girls at one team, GOTR has grown to serve over 2,500 girls per year with over 50% of them requiring scholarships to participate.

Louise Schoeny, Lily Sacks, Ava Seinen, and Isabella Levental strategize in a group team-building activity
First introduced to Indian Hill Elementary School in 2011, GOTR has had a significant impact on teaching girls essential life skills at a critical point in their physical, emotional and social development. Coached this season by Indian Hill parents Margaux Higgins, Beth Rabenold, Nicole Seinen, Whitley Schoeny, Mandy Longbottom and Sara Blemker, the program brings together fun, fitness, and peer acceptance over an 11-week span.

Coach Whitley Schoeny reviews community project ideas with the group
Core values of GOTR reinforce recognizing one’s power and responsibility to be intentional in decision making; embracing differences and finding strength in connections; expressing joy, optimism and gratitude in everyday thoughts, words and actions; leading with an open heart and assuming positive intent; nurturing one’s physical, emotional and spiritual health; and standing up for one’s self and others. Girls in the program also learn to make a meaningful contribution to their community through a team-organized Community Impact Project.  Training for the 5K and physical activity is woven into the program to inspire an appreciation for fitness and healthy habits.  The celebratory, non-competitive event instills the value of setting goals.  Each GOTR participant chooses an older (usually adult) mentor to run with them in the 5K race. On a wet and cold Saturday morning in late October, the group gathered at the Elementary school to do a practice run. The theme that day was “you are stronger than you think” with an object of measuring individual time and progress against personal goals.

The girls run laps in the IH Elementary School hallway on a very rainy and cold practice day.
Over the 11 weeks of the GOTR program, a weekly curriculum leads the group through dynamic discussions, activities and running games.  Why are these activities so important? Research shows that GOTR is highly effective in promoting season-long and lasting change in competence, confidence, connection, character, physical activity, and life skills.  In addition, GOTR makes a stronger impact than organized sports and physical education programs in teaching life skills such as managing emotions, resolving conflict, helping others, and making intentional decisions.

Lily Sacks and Molly Guinan listen intently to GOTR coach Sarah Blemker
Let’s face it, girls of all ages face social pressures and conflicting messages about how they should act and who they should be.  Studies show that by middle school years, girls' confidence drops about twice as much as boys'. Friendships become more complicated and challenging, girls' perception of their academic ability declines, the likelihood of anxiety and depression increases, and participation in physical activity plummets. 

Lily Sacks, Paige Rabenold, Louise Schoeny, Milana Barrett, Molly Guinan, Laurel Mouldrem, Mallory Hardek,  Nicole Seinen in a group spirit hug
Stated Indian Hill Senior Megan Slovenski, a GOTR graduate and current student coach, “The GOTR program encourages girls to be healthy, and they learn to enjoy physical activity.  When I was a fifth grader, I had no self-confidence and I was not very self-aware.  As I went through the program, I found a community of good girls with whom I could be friends. I could make good choices, be confident in my choices and feel good about myself.  Megan currently competes on behalf of IHHS in track and cross-country and volunteers as a GOTR to help her students discover the same confidence. 

Lily Sacks, Megan Slovenski, Laurel Mouldrem, Sarah Motawi, and Libby Holmes get ready for a practice 5K on October 8th
IH Freshman Sarah Motawi agrees. Her goal as a GOTR volunteer coach is to help her students discover pride and a sense of accomplishment in completing the program. Sarah is a swimmer and competes for Cincinnati Aquatics and the Indian Hill Braves Swim team. She credits the GOTR program with helping her discover her personal strengths and abilities.

Molly Guinan with her dad and GOTR mentor Kip Guinan
GOTR reinforces the five “C”s  that are powerful tools in creating this all-important sense of self: confidence – self worth; character – the power to make intentional decisions; care – be compassionate; competence – skill-building; connections – cooperative skills; contribution – giving back to the community.

Kendall Higgins with dad and mentor Mark Higgins
The fee for the GOTR program is $160 and covers 20 uplifting lessons, new running shoes, a GOTR t-shirt, healthy snacks at each lesson, 5k registration, finisher’s medal, and more!  Indian Hill’s “Girls on the Run” program is seeking coaches to lead this dynamic group next fall.  For more details, go to:

A few inspirational quotes from past “Girls On The Run”

“Eventually, you don’t have to beat girls in track practices to be free; to be yourself; to be confident; to be fearless. When you see your own inner beauty, everyone else does.  That’s what the program tries to show girls, so that you keep that knowledge forever.” 

“Inner beauty isn’t something that you earn, but that you’re born with.  The trick is to find inside of you, and let it shine through for everyone to see.  How can you have fear when your natural beauty sparkles?” 

“Since being in GOTR, I really don’t get scared.  Everyone is beautiful, and you don’t have to hide behind a shield of makeup or ben an outsider.  You can do anything if you try. You are stronger than you think.”

GOTR girls stretching

Marilyn Blemker with dad and mentor Ben Blemker

 Steve Sacks, Laurel Mouldrem, and Kelly Vaughan (4th Grade Teacher) celebrate their 5K finish

 Arrianna Sacks, Lily Sacks, and Laurel Mouldrem

Ava Seinen and Nicole Seinen

Isabella Levental works on a weekly motivational worksheet

GOTR Coaches Whitley Schoeny, Sarah Blemker, Mandy Longbottom, Margaux Higgins, Nicole Seinen, Beth Rabenold

Kendall Higgins and Molly Guinan during a practice run

 Lily Sacks

Mandy Longbottom and Marin Longbottom

 Lily Sacks  
GOTR coaches (top row) Nicole Seinen, Mandy Longbottom, Margaux Higgins, Beth Rabenold;(bottom)
Whitley Schoeny, Sarah Blemker

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