Volunteer coaches are the heart and sole of Girls on the Run…they bring the program to life for the girls in their communities! And that’s just what Susan Parker, a native of the Metro East did in fall 2011 when she brought GOTR to the school where she taught, Signal Hill School in Belleville, IL. Susan briefly heard of GOTR, looked into it a bit and immediately jumped at the opportunity to bring it to Signal Hill girls.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am Susan Parker a junior high English teacher at Signal Hill School. I’ve taught junior high for the past 3 years and prior to that, I taught 4th grade for 6 years. I went to Eastern Illinois University for my bachelors in education, Lindenwood University for my masters in education, and am currently working on my second masters at Lindenwood University in school and professional counseling. I enjoy learning, obviously! I enjoy running with three of my good friends. We enjoy getting together to exercise and socialize/talk while we run. It is the best stress reliever! I have a 12-year-old Basset Hound, who does not enjoy running, but napping!
Why did you choose to volunteer/get involved with GOTR-STL?
I chose to become a GOTR coach to get the girls at my school active, and I loved the overall message of the program. I enjoyed running and thought the girls at my school could benefit from this fabulous program.
What is the most rewarding thing about Girls on the Run?
The most rewarding part of GOTR is watching the girls progress through the program. I love watching the girls gain endurance and form friendships that maybe they wouldn't normally in the classroom. When the girls pair up to run, it is not by friendship but ability. I LOVE seeing their faces during the race and at the finish line. Being able to witness their sense of accomplishment is the best feeling in the world!
How has GOTR-STL impacted your life?
GOTR has impacted my life for the better. I strive to be a healthy role model for my girls and students. They know fitness and being healthy is important to me. They ask about races I run, want to run local races with me, and tell me about their fitness goals. I love being a positive role model for the kids at my school. GOTR has also challenged me to bump up my fitness goals and run half marathons. I have now completed six over the last few years.
I had the chance to run as a Sparkler in the Spring '15 Season, and it was the BEST experience! As a coach, you don't necessarily get to see all your girls' faces during the race, but as a Sparkler, I did! I loved being able to cheer for all the girls and parents during the 5k and see how it impacted their motivation. Being close to the finish line brought tears to my eyes because the girls' faces were priceless! They were so proud of themselves for finishing this 3.1 miles special celebration!
Why would you recommend others get involved with Girls on the Run?
I would encourage others to get involved with GOTR in any way they can. Volunteer at the 5k, walk/run with a girl at the 5k, be a cheerleader at a cheer station, become a coach, anything! I count on my co-workers and friends to help my girls as pace partners – walk/run with a girl during the 5K. All of them love the opportunity and always ask to help again the next year. The feeling when volunteering for GOTR is one of the most rewarding experiences. All the pace partners bond during the 5k and love seeing their pace partner at school or out in the community. Usually the adults learn more than the girls during the season :)
What are your hopes for the future of Girls on the Run as an organization?
My hope for GOTR is to continue to grow every year! The spring St. Louis Girls on the Run 5k was the largest in the country! I love that the St. Louis GOTR council is growing every year. And with growth, there’s been opportunities to support the program outside of coaching. I enjoy helping with site visits during the seasons that I do not coach; this supports coaches and their team of girls. Site visits allow me to connect with them, and observe how they organize and carry out practices. I enjoy learning new ideas to take back to my team.