FAIRFIELD — Girls on the Run Napa Valley, the program that combines fitness and empowerment for young girls, is moving to expand its presence in Solano County.
Presently only offered here at K.I. Jones Elementary School, the nonprofit plans to expand its fall season program at Crescent Elementary School and the Matt Garcia Learning Center, and add 10 more sites in the county in spring 2015, according to Executive Director Janet Todd.
Girls on the Run Napa Valley started eight years ago with 30 young girls and four women who shared a passion for empowering girls. The Napa group is one of more than 200 such locations in the U.S. and Canada under the direction of Girls on the Run International.
The young girls’ empowerment program has since grown to more than 2,000 girls between third and eighth grade, and 90 volunteer life coaches at 22 school sites mainly in Napa County, as well as K.I. Jones in Fairfield.
The program’s curriculum combines training for a 5K run with lessons to inspire the girls to become independent thinkers, improve their problem-solving skills and make healthy decisions.
“It’s all about girls empowerment. It combines the best of sports with a life-skills curriculum,” Todd said.
To help Girls on the Run expand in Solano County, the nonprofit hired April Massett as the program coordinator for Solano County thanks to grant from Kaiser Permanente.
Massett’s job is to build partnerships with schools, recruit girls and volunteer life-coaches while expanding the donor base so that the program can continue in Solano County.
Todd is excited to have Massett on the team and said she is confident that Massett has the leadership, insight and skills to make the program in Solano County successful.
“As we have experienced in Napa County, recruiting girls is the easy part,” Todd said. “Once girls are exposed to the fun and uplifting program, we have trouble meeting the demand. Recruiting volunteer life-coaches who can commit to 10 weeks, twice a week for 1¼ hours, after school and securing the donations to support the number of low-income girls is the challenge for both Napa and Solano counties.”
Massett initially working as a life coach at Laurel Creek Elementary School, the first school to host the program. That program disbanded. She then went to K.I. Jones Elementary School, working with the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade girls the program aims to assist.
“I am excited to help the girls of Solano County catch the positive, joyful, healthy and active vision that Girls on the Run brings to our community,” Massett said.
Massett said she would have loved it if Girls on the Run had existed when she was young. It would have made her more confident and outgoing and would have helped her live a healthier lifestyle. Her sixth-grade daughter Julia is involved with Girls on the Run and has become more self-confident and lives a healthier lifestyle since she joined, Massett said.
The Girls on the Run groups meet twice a week after school sometimes for a game, a jog or a race. Through these activities, the young girls are taught to stay active, but more than that, to be confident in their own bodies.
Each meeting starts with the girls talking about the life skill topic of the day before completing a workout that involves either running, walking or skipping laps while completing the life skill game for the day.
Todd pointed out that self-confidence is essential because society often places greater value on girls’ appearance than boys’.
Signups for this fall’s session are taking place. For more information about Girls on the Run, to sign up, volunteer, donate or set up a program at your school, contact Todd at [email protected] or go online to gotnapavalley.org.
Reach Ian Thompson at 27-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.