CSULB students coach girls in running, self-esteem
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 19:12
Female role models from Cal State Long Beach have empowered young girls by helping them put on their running shoes, as part of a nationwide program called Girls on the Run.
The program has seen participation from more than 30 Cal State Long Beach students in the past four years, according to Lauren Rauscher, vice-chair on the board of directors for Girls on the Run (GOTR) Los Angeles and associate professor in human development at CSULB.
The program is directed toward adolescent girls ages 8 to 13. The 12-week program includes proactive, confidence-building lessons and activities, while girls discover the liberation of running, according to founder Molly Barker on the GOTR Los Angeles website. Each season ends with the girls crossing the finish line at the end of a 5K run.
According to Alicia Houn, former head coach for the spring 2012 session of GOTR and CSULB alumna, some girls are selected to participate in the program by school counselors or teachers. Even though the fee is $165, the charge is easily waived depending on need, and scholarships are often made available to participants, according to Houn.
Participants are given a GOTR shirt and water bottle, as well as entrance into a 5K run at the end of the program. However, the goodie bags and medals at the end are not what pushes the girls past the finish line, according to Jessica Peleaez, a former an assistant coach for the program. The strong community that the runners build together over the three-month session is enough to keep them on the run, Peleaez said.
Peleaez, a senior women’s studies major, served first as a research assistant and then an assistant coach for the nationwide non-profit organization.
“The girls are so loving,” Peleaez said. “It’s a really nice experience to see the transformation.”
Some volunteer leaders in the program said that they had undergone a change along with the girls.
Peleaez, who admitted that she too had struggled with self-esteem issues, said that she had gone through a transformation herself because the girls’ confidence was contagious.
“To know that they can empower themselves at such a young age,” Houn said, “hopefully they keep that as they grow up.”
Houn served as a head coach for GOTR Los Angeles at Bryant Elementary School in Long Beach during her last semester while she took a practicum class directed towards future planning. The class had a volunteer requirement, and she chose GOTR Los Angeles.
Houn said she began each practice by explaining the day’s goal, followed by a lesson. The lessons were designed to educate girls on healthy living, bullying, peer pressure and the media portrayal of women.
The girls would then get active by playing games that related to real-life situations, Houn said. During the games, she said the girls interacted with each other and learned things about themselves along the way while becoming conditioned for the 5K run at the end of the season.
Houn said that the practices seemed so proactive that the boys of Bryant elementary school often approached the coaches, wondering whether there was a “Boys on the Run.”
Houn and Peleaez traveled with their respective teams to Santa Monica last summer to run the 5K. Peleaez said that each girl finished the run, only occasionally stifled by mental limitations which were quickly overcome with the support of their, coaches, parents and newfound teammates.
“Running is something they can do themselves,” Houn said. “No one can take that away from them.”