The Girls on the Run St. Louis office received an email from a St. Louis University college senior, who shared that she participated in Girls on the Run when she was in elementary school. Now, Girls on the Run started in 1996 in North Carolina, so we knew that a college senior would have participated in one of the first few years of the program. As Girls on the Run St. Louis begins our 13th year (!), we are finding more and more GOTR alumnae who are graduating high school, starting college, and have inspiring stories of how Girls on the Run gave them the skills to have a happy and healthy adolescent and the confidence as they adjust to life as a college student. So, when we received this email from a college senior alum, we were thrilled and knew we had to learn more.
Natalie is a nutrition and dietetics major at St. Louis University and is excited (and a little apprehensive, as we all would be) about graduating in May. Upon meeting Natalie, we learned she is originally from Grand Haven, Michigan and participated in one of the first seasons of Girls on the Run Ottawa and Allegan Counties.
Thirteen years ago, when Natalie was in third grade, she participated in her first season of Girls on the Run and has been in love with running ever since. She remembers the thrill of running with her friends after school, playing games and “plugging in the positive cord”. While it may be hard to recall some of the specific lessons from over 10 years ago, the overall feelings of confidence, inspiration and empowerment are still with Natalie today. The best part? When she goes home to Grand Haven, she still sees friends from her Girls on the Run team!
In speaking with Natalie, it is clear that the connections to her teammates, coaches, and the community have remained a constant throughout her life. Throughout her four years at St. Louis University, Natalie has grown her St. Louis “family” from her peers studying nutrition and dietetics, her Cross Country and Track and Field teammates, and her volunteering group. She describes loving the team aspect of each of these groups, the strong connections, the willingness to support one another, and the friendships that have developed.
Natalie has continued to run, and has spent many years competing with her Cross Country and Track teams at St. Louis University. Despite suffering an running injury early in her college career, Natalie continued to feel connected to her teammates, even inviting them over for home cooked dinners after practices, and cheering them on at competitions. The support went both ways, and Natalie always felt embraced and encouraged by her teammates, sharing with us that her current teammates are all “Girls on the Run at heart”.
As an advocate for healthy living, Natalie frequently volunteers for Campus Kitchens Project recovering food from cafeterias and prepping meals for the community. This chance to give back to the community is one she first learned at Girls on the Run, the connection to the community and the importance of giving back have stuck with her all these years.
As she makes the transition into the professional world, Natalie looks forward to taking the Girls on the Run core values with her. Natalie is excited to make a career focused on educating kids about the importance of proper nutrition and exercise.