Girls on the Run celebrates 18 years of after-school programs for Ann Arbor area girls

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Credit: Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan

ANN ARBOR - Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan is celebrating its 18th anniversary of impacting young girls' lives through running.

The nonprofit operates after-school running programs for girls grades third through eighth. A branch of Girls on the Run International, it offers 10-week after-school running programs in the fall and spring.

It serves five counties, including Livingston, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw. Over the past 18 years, it has served more than 16,000 girls. 

Last spring, 470 volunteer coaches and site leaders led practices twice a week, which covered running games, activities and dynamic discussions.

Volunteer coaches pose for a photo at the Girls on the Run 5K. (Credit: Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan)

"They’re the life blood of our organization," said Gracie Potter, programing and marketing director. "We really can’t function without all these wonderful volunteer coaches."

Girls on the Run operates primarily at school sites, including Ann Arbor Public Schools. 

According to its website, girls learn core skills such as:

  • Confidence
  • Character
  • Care
  • Connections
  • Competence
  • Contribution

Each season culminates in a fun, noncompetitive 5K and a community service project. Many coaches and 5K volunteers are local high school students.

"A recent independent study led by Dr. Maureen Weiss, an expert in Positive Youth Development, found that Girls on the Run’s intentional life skills curriculum and highly trained coaches positively impact girls’ lives by helping them increase their self-confidence, develop healthy relationships and feel good about themselves."
- Girls on the Run

Credit: Girls on the Run of Southeastern Michigan

The organization has two programs that span elementary and middle schools. Girls on the Run is the original third through fifth grade program, and Heart and Sole serves sixth through eighth graders. 

"Heart and Sole addresses different topics than Girls on the Run, but it still has the same underlying themes such as social wellness, and health and development," said Potter.

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