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Girls on the Run of Calhoun County

Training for a 5k run provides the backdrop for the Girls on the Run of Calhoun County’s curriculum. Participants are taught much more than jogging skills. Lessons in independent thinking, problem solving skills, and how to make healthy decisions all foster self-confidence in the 3rd through 5th grade girls.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable? 
Girls on the Run: We are part of a national program that was founded by an extremely passionate woman, Molly Barker. She sought out to “change the world one girl at a time.” Girls on the Run doesn’t try to change kids; we just want to enhance the fabulous person that lies within. The program teaches girls that it’s okay to be who you are, and don’t let anyone or anything, meaning society, the media, or your friends, tell you differently.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
The best lesson this last year was that we can continue to meet the needs of all girls with the help of funding. Growing our
It is nothing short of amazing to see the girls work together and encourage each other as the season goes on.
program each year has been challenging, but if you run a quality program that is offered to all girls in the community support will come. I love that our county values our program and that they play an instrumental role in its success.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
It is okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them. Last year at our 5k event we ran out of parking and had to use the lot we reserved for the teams as overflow; this left our teams scattered among the grassy areas and it was difficult to track them down after the event. This year we shuttled the people from a local high school lot, and despite the rain it worked out very well.
This year we also worked with Summit Pointe to create a behavior policy. The policy allows for girls with behavior issues to stay involved with the program as long as the girl and the parent/guardian agree to counseling offered by Summit Pointe. Prior to this policy our coaches did not have clear steps to take when addressing girls with behavior issues.
What really differentiates this program?
The Girls on the Run curriculum is pure genius. It hits on all the key issues facing young girls in today’s society. The curriculum is easy to follow for coaches and mentors, and it gets the girls comfortable with each other. It is nothing short of amazing to see the girls work together and encourage each other as the season goes on.
What are the keys to success for your program?
No one person in our organization is important; we all are.
Passion, or the firm belief in the program and its mission, shows at all times. Leadership is key as well, and a program needs someone who can take charge, address issues, and make tough decisions when necessary. Feedback is key. That is listening to and addressing comments and concerns offered to leadership in regards to the program. I also classify quick responses to all phone calls, text messages, and emails as a part of feedback and leadership. It is essential that not only our coaches collaborate with each other, but that I work with each site on what can be done to better serve their needs. We bring our coaches together and allow them to share stories about what works or doesn't work for them. This is especially helpful for our new coaches. Mentoring is critical because of the time the coaches spend with the girls. We need our coaches to model the role of what a Girls on the Run girl does or how she acts. Without the mentoring piece, our program would be more about running. No one person in our organization is important; we all are.
In looking at programs similar to yours, which program do you think is doing exceptional work?
Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run is doing exceptional. They have just had their 10-year anniversary, and they reach approximately 90 percent of the girls in their county. Going along with our keys to success, I have met with and observed the leaders of that program. They have been awesome mentors to me in this journey. Although our programs differ slightly from site to site, I see the continuing trend of passion as the program’s foundation. Molly Barker has done an exceptional job of “changing the world one girl at a time.”
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  • Girls on the Run of Calhoun County
    We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experienced-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. 


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