By: Justin Worthing ~Staff Writer~
Last semester Xavier juniors Rachel Piepsny and Allie Weiss addressed a need they saw in the community by starting a Girls on the Run team at local Evanston Academy.
The team recently began its second season with the goal of helping elementary girls grow in their confidence and learn how to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally.
“Here at Evanston what we try to do is provide a space for them outside of school and home life to really just grow and explore their personalities, who they are and grow within themselves in their own skin,” Weiss said.
The program addresses the need for extracurricular programs at Evanston Academy.
Piepsny and Weiss considered starting a Girls on the Run program over other extracurricular programs because both had experience with it before.
“We initially brought the program in because after-school funding for Evanston was cut, and we had both been volunteering here for other programs and really saw that there was a need for something after school,” Weiss said. “The interest was here and everyone at Evanston was very welcoming and open to it.”
Their 10-week fall season focuses on 13 third- and fourth-grade girls, who meet after school twice a week for practice.
Piepsny and Weiss lead practices with the help of 13 additional Xavier student coaches.
The Evanston team is one of many Girls on the Run teams across the U.S.
The national program targets girls in third through sixth grade with the mission of “(inspiring) girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”
Many of the girls have expressed positive feedback about the program and many enjoy the physical demands the program places on them.
“My favorite thing about Girls on the Run is running,” India, one of the Evanston Academy team’s participants, said.
Piepsny and Weiss both agree that they have seen the girls grow by “leaps and bounds.”
“They become a lot more open with us, which sometimes can then lead to becoming a lot more open with the whole group,” Piepsny said. “That’s not to say the skills always transfer over into their everyday lives, but if they’re doing that and learning that they can grow in such a way in this space then who’s to say it can’t transfer over into the rest of their lives?”
Finally, Piepsny and Weiss hope the program is viewed as a partnership between them and the local community.
“I think we hope the Evanston community knows that we are here as a partnership with them as families, as their school system and as their children, that we are coming in here just alongside them to grow alongside with their families,” Piepsny said. “We enjoy getting to know the parents and siblings and offering what we have to the girls. I think we also try to keep in mind that we’re engaging across some differences but at the same time that we’re all here for the same reason (which is) to take care of their daughters.”
Visit the Evanston Academy’s Girls on the Run Facebook page for more information on their team.
For more information on how to get involved with Girls on the Run in general, visit girlsontherun.org.
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