Local program strives to empower girls, encourage healthy lifestyles

Assignment created for JRN 340: Digital Journalism course.

Many individuals use running as a means of exercise. For Girls on the Run of Central Michigan, running is more than just exercise. It is a way to build friendships, gain confidence and live healthy lives.

Girls on the Run of Central Michigan now serves girls within Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Isabella and Midland counties after a recent merge between two Girls on the Run councils.

During this merge, Samantha Jones was appointed the program’s first executive director. Jones said that there have been many administrative changes because of this, but she is hopeful that families have noticed better communication as a result.

In addition to serving as the executive director, Jones is also a coach for Shepherd Middle School. For Jones, this gives additional meaning to the program.

“Society kind of gets down on girls,” Jones said. “We help them resist peer pressure and think for themselves. It’s so important to give girls that confidence and make sure they believe in themselves.”

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Girls of the Ganiard School team pose with Coach Jenny Beuschel for a picture on Thursday, April 21.

Ganiard Elementary School is one of several schools that benefits from this program. Girls at this school are taught by Coach Jenny Beuschel and Assistant Coach Maria Maffezzoli, both students at Central Michigan University.

Maffezzoli decided to sign up for Girls on the Run after hearing about her sister’s experiences with the program while student teaching.

“This is my first year coaching for Girls on the Run,” Maffezzoli said. “It has been a great experience seeing all the girls be so happy about it [Girls on the Run] and really getting into it and taking it seriously. I haven’t really had any challenging parts as a coach.”

Beuschel has been coaching for the program for two years now. She originally heard about the program after attending Issue Day, an event hosted by the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center at CMU.

“As a coach, I get to see their progress, and witness the pride they feel when they meet their goals,” Beuschel said.

Beuschel, like Maffezzoli, said that she has faced very few challenges with this program.

“Since they are so energetic, sometimes I feel like it can be hard to get their attention,” Beuschel said. “They always surprise me with how much they learn, even when I don’t think they were listening!”

The program, once held only in the spring, will now be hosting an additional session in the fall. Students will have the opportunity to participate in either session.

A 5k celebration is held at the end of each season for all of the coaches, girls and their families within the region. According to Beuschel, over 560 girls will be participating in this event. It will be held on May 14 in Shepherd.

“There’s music, hair stations, a photo booth, dancing – it is a big, exciting event,” Beuschel said.

Girls on the Run of Central Michigan is currently recruiting volunteers for this event.

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