Girls on the Run in Puget Sound blends physical activity with life skill development, pairing youth who identify as girls, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming with volunteer mentors to help them develop essential life skills. Puget Sound’s chapter of Girls on the Run was founded in 2002, with more than 18,000 girls in the Puget Sound served since then.

This year, Girls on the Run will be a part of the Beyond the Bell program with Tacoma Public Schools, beginning with Session 4. Registration for Session 4 runs from March 25 – April 13. Space in each program is limited, so mark your calendar and register early in the COMPASS app to make sure that you’re able to enroll in your preferred program!

Each 90-minute session will run the same way a normal Girls on the Run Session would – meeting up, getting on board, doing some structured strengthening, doing an activity, and then moving into what is called the running portion. This is where most of the movement will occur and is done on a time basis, not necessarily the distance that participants go.

Program manager Noël Abrams says that she appreciates that the organization goes beyond to ensure that the program is accessible. “It’s not only the program, but it’s that we can provide shoes and clothing if they need it. It really helps [the girls] to feel comfortable, especially in some of our underserved communities—where they might not be able to participate in activities because of the barrier of cost—that we can do this for them at no cost, and we will also make sure that they get snacks and that they’re comfortable. That inspires me.”

Education and Empowerment

While the organization’s name may conjure mental images of girls jogging at a set pace and keeping a close eye on their watches, executive director Jane Duea assures that this is far from the truth.

“With the term ‘run,’ it’s really about moving forward and setting goals. It’s not about running. We have girls that choose to walk every single session,” she explains. “And we have girls that participate in different ways, too! There are girls in wheelchairs. We’ve had girls using walkers. So we have adaptability resources that coaches can use so that they can serve all the kids and however they need that to be. Our goal is for the girls to build their life toolbelt so that they can be confident and unique in their powerful selves.”

Duea has been in her position for just over five years and before that, coached for four years at a school on the Cape Peninsula, falling in love with the organization as she did so. “I just felt like it was kind of the secret sauce a little bit to all the things that girls that age needed to be hearing and listening to and buying into in a positive way,” she reflected, pointing out that she felt as though she saw legitimate change and transformation in herself and the girls that she coached.

Coaches

Children and youth in the program are mentored by trained volunteers who serve as role models as well as coaches. “We want someone who’s just going to be there for the girls, and especially after everything they’ve gone through in the last four or five years, just someone to show them the strength and how to persevere and how to set goals and achieve them.”

Abrams, who also started as a volunteer at a time when both of her children were involved with the program, recalls that “it was a really interesting way to be a part of it, because not only were [the kids] growing in terms of all the lessons and personal growth, but I was also growing while coaching a completely different team.”

Duea mentions that coaches will often say that they get just as much out of the program as the girls do, because even adults can always use a lesson on inner beauty or how to have difficult conversations. Coaching, according to Duea, is a good reminder to us, as adults, to feel our feelings and know that it’s healthy.

Learn More

For more information about Girls on the Run and their programs, visit GOTRpugetsound.org.

To enroll a child in a Beyond the Bell session of programming, register through the COMPASS app! The following schools will have Girls on the Run programming available for Session 4.

  • Birney Elementary – Tuesday/ Thursday 
  • Blix Elementary – Monday/ Wednesday
  • Crescent Heights Elementary – Tuesday/ Thursday
  • NE Tacoma Elementary  – Monday/ Wednesday
  • Pt. Defiance Elementary  – Monday/ Wednesday
  • Travis Elementary – Tuesday/ Thursday
  • Washington Elementary – Monday/ Wednesday