Happy New Year!

Posted by Maggie in on Mon 01/04/2016 10:36

Photo credit: Joe Angeles WUSTL Photos

By Courtney Berg, Exective Director

Happy New Year from all of us at Girls on the Run St. Louis! We are grateful for the incredible year that 2015 has been for us and the inspiring girls, coaches, families, volunteers and partners that have made it possible. Thank you for your support, energy and commitment to our mission to empower girls for a lifetime of healthy living. We truly could not run without you!

2015 has demonstrated the strength of and clear need for Girls on the Run in our community. This year we cheered as more than 6,000 girls crossed the finish line at our biannual 5ks, the largest timed 5k in St. Louis, and recognized their confidence through accomplishment. More than 300 sites across 23 counties in eastern Missouri and western Illinois are part of GOTR-STL, representing more than 60 school districts, making GOTR-STL one of the largest Girls on the Run councils in the international network. We have continued our commitment to the belief that every girl should have the opportunity to be a Girl on the Run regardless of ability to pay, providing more than $355,000 in scholarships.

This year also allowed us to highlight two outstanding role models for the girls in our program in our Honorary Race Chairs of Bethany Johnson-Javois, Chair of the Ferguson Commission, and Lori Chalupny, World Cup Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist. We hosted the inspiring Kathrine Switzer, the first official female finisher of the Boston Marathon, who encouraged us all to “live like a Girl on the Run and always finish the race!” It has truly been a remarkable year for Girls on the Run St. Louis!

I am a firm believer that it is our Girls on the Run who can best speak to the power, relevance and impact of the program. As one of our participants at Jackson Park Elementary (University City School District) explained when asked what she really likes about herself, “That I am unique (sc) in my own way.” That she feels and can articulate this at age 10 is both inspiring and encouraging - she has a sense of self, is able to stand up for herself and feels connected - this is being a Girl on the Run!

I am often asked why Girls on the Run is relevant today, why does it resonate with so many girls, families and communities, how do we continue to grow? My response is twofold: Girls on the Run St. Louis is here because we must and we can!

We must have Girls on the Run if we are truly committed to a world that values girls and women and healthy communities.

The staggering plummet in girls self-esteem during adolescence is absolute cause for concern within our families and communities. When asked how often they felt “happy the way I am,” 60 percent of elementary school girls answered “always.” By high school the figures dropped to 29 percent (read full survey here). The potential negative health outcomes due to low self-esteem are well documented; poor academics, risky sexual behavior, negative body image and potential eating disorders. We must have Girls on the Run so that our girls are equipped at a critical stage of development with social, psychological and physical competencies to successfully navigate life experiences. Through our partnership with The Prevention Research Center at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, we know that girls who participate in the 10-week GOTR program are developing and enhancing these critical life skills; 96% of surveyed GOTR-STL participants reported “there are a lot of good things about me.” We must have Girls on the Run!

We must have Girls on the Run if we are equipping our girls to run their lives and our world!

In 2014, female full-time workers made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 21 percent. Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2015). Families and our economy as a whole suffers from inequality in pay between women and men. If women and family incomes are to increase, potentially reducing poverty with all its negative health and lifetime impact and growing the American economy, we will need confident, capable, caring and courageous leaders to make this change - we must have Girls on the Run.

We must have girls who become women that truly embody the Girls on the Run core value to “stand up for ourselves and others;” girls who believe in themselves, value themselves and others. A recent study by KPMG surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. women ages 18-64 and found that confidence is an attribute respondents identified as most essential to leadership success. However, less than 50% of women in this study identified as confident and 67% said they need that confidence to feel like they can be leaders. Our girls deserve to be empowered and supported to navigate life - our community needs them to be leaders.

We can make Girls on the Run possible!

Since 2002 and with more than 35,000 girls served, the St. Louis community has embraced GOTR-STL and our vision of every girl knowing and activating her limitless potential. Just as our Girls on the Run become girls who can - no limits, no constraints, just limitless potential - we can have Girls on the Run! We can make our ability to grow as a healthy, diverse and vibrant community possible with Girls on the Run.

This year, make it the year of can - the year you can be part of a movement for confident, capable girls who will run our world! I encourage you to consider coaching, volunteering at our 5k, supporting a scholarship for a girl or an entire team, putting meaning to your miles by fundraising for GOTRSTL as a SoleMate, or simply sharing the power of GOTR-STL with your community.

On behalf of the staff and board of Girls on the Run St. Louis, wishing you a healthy, confident and joyful 2016!