At Girls on the Run St. Louis we are committed to our mission to empower girls for a lifetime of healthy living – to understand more about, and do better for, the amazing girls, families and communities we are honored to be part of across 23 counties in Missouri and Illinois.
Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back against childhood trauma. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education, and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress.
An engaging conversation followed the screening with a panel of local experts including:
- Dr. Sarah Garwood, Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Pediatrics
- Dr. Karen Guskin, Wyman Center
- Dorothy Haskell, LCSW, University of Missouri St. Louis
- Sean Marz, Alive & Well STL, St. Louis Regional Health Commission
- Dr. Anthony Robinson, Jennings School District
- Ashley Rodemann, LCSW, St. Louis Children’s Hospital (Moderator)
As we welcomed more than 300 guests last Thursday evening to the Resilience screening, we also offered an invitation to act – to learn more, perhaps challenge some of our own perceptions or privileges, and to consider this from the perspective of a Girl on the Run, a girl in 3rd-8th grades, 9-14 years-old.
Our spring 2017 season has commenced and we are honored and excited that it is a record season for Girls on the Run St. Louis; over 3,900 girls are participating at nearly 200 diverse school and community sites in Missouri and Illinois. The first lesson that our girls and volunteer coaches explore together in the curriculum is to agree upon what it means to be a Girl on the Run. The core values that they use are the foundation for Girls on the Run St. Louis and were our intent for the evening:
- Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making
- Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness
- Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions
- Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health
- Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent
- Stand up for ourselves and others
Since 2002, Girls on the Run St. Louis has been committed to empowering girls for a lifetime of healthy living. We are honored to have served over 40,000 girls from more than 350 diverse schools and community sites. We believe in a world where every girl can know and activate her limitless potential - where she can boldly pursue her dreams - where she creates a dialogue of I CAN.
Why are we committed to this vision? The staggering drop in girls’ self-esteem during adolescence is absolute cause for concern. Research from the American Association of University Women shows when asked how often they felt “happy the way I am,” 60 percent of elementary school girls answered, “always!” By high school that figure dropped to 29 percent.
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 are far too high among females who report low self-esteem at a young age. All of these lead to girls stepping away from their potential as leaders and active citizens.
In contrast, a study conducted in partnership with the Prevention Research Center at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis found that girls who participate in the 10-week Girls on the Run program are developing and enhancing critical life skills like self-confidence and the ability to persist through adversity; because of these skills, Girls on the Run participants are more likely to build resiliency and to step into leadership roles throughout their lives. We are allowing girls the opportunity to practice these skills and self-regulation in a positive, supportive environment, because as we learned Thursday evening, what gets fired in the brain gets wired in the brain.
Our girls deserve to dream big – and we need them to dream big and lead. We must have girls who become women who truly embody the Girls on the Run core value to “stand up for ourselves and others” – girls who believe in themselves and are willing to step into leadership roles at work and in our community.
40,000 girls over 15 years is exciting – yet it is not nearly enough. As a community we must do more. We can do better for our girls, and we will. This is a movement, a Girls on the Run movement, that holds up healthy, empowered girls and women because it means our community, and our future, will be stronger.
While we build this movement and come together, what remains our laser focus is what happens to that Girl on the Run at practice today – what is her experience? How can we better understand her context and shift the question from “what is wrong with her?” to “what happened?”
Our goal in this movement, and at the Resilience event, is to elevate the dialogue to that of how an interconnected community, not just a particular organization, physician, teacher, child or family can make a change. If everyone takes a step, then we all move together to create a thriving community. As one researcher so eloquently states in the film, "If we can weave the science through these different professions and get it into the hands of the general population, they will invent very wise actions."
We know that the consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences cut across professional disciplines, personal relationships and all socioeconomic demographics. Our work to build resiliency cannot be concentrated on a particular "at risk" population, but we instead need to consider the entire population at risk. In order to implement such a universal approach, we need to form connections between entities and organizations like local schools, health care, positive youth development organizations and others to affect the kinds of change necessary to build the skills of resilience on a scale larger than the individual. We must connect and move around building resilient children, families and communities.
As the film and our panelists emphasized, mindfulness is truly one of the most effective and accessible interventions available for both youth and adults living with toxic stress. Our friends at Alive & Well STL and Generation Mindful have outstanding resources in this area.
What research tells us, and our panelists emphasized, is ever more powerful: having a person in your life who cares for and supports you fosters resilience in dealing with toxic stress. We invite you to be that person for a child, perhaps as a Girls on the Run coach or to bring the program to your community. Our Pacesetters are women who lead and serve as a model for inspiration to future female leaders; they support our mission and inspire the girls and coaches we serve. We invite you to join our Pacesetters for a continued conversation regarding Resilience and next steps on Thursday, March 16th. Please RSVP here.
This is one of the many amazing aspects of Girls on the Run St. Louis – a community that believes in the limitless potential of every girl moving forward together and with her! Thank you for sharing our belief that girls are inherently full of power and potential and have the ability to change our world!