By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — While training for a 5K, girls at Hurley Elementary School have learned stretching techniques and how to keep a steady pace.
They’ve also gained self-confidence and the knowledge that being unique isn’t a bad thing after all.
“I’ve learned to always be positive and to always believe in yourself,” said Piper Muire, 8.
Muire and 14 other girls at Hurley are participating in Rowan County’s first Girls on the Run program.
The 12-week program, offered nationwide to third- through eighth-grade girls, helps develop self-respect and foster healthy lifestyles.
The girls meet after school for about 90 minutes Monday and Wednesday.
During the introduction each day, they talk about topics such as the dangers of bullying, how to handle peer pressure and the importance of eating healthy.
Then they head outside to get physical by stretching, running and laughing up a storm.
“We are using running as a tool to help them develop mentally, socially, physically, emotionally and even spiritually,” Tanya Kummerow, council director for Girls on the Run in Iredell and Rowan counties, said. “Each lesson, we talk about a different issue that girls are going to face in adolescence.”
Nine-year-old twin sisters Madison and Malia Hughley said they’ve enjoyed being part of the program.
“This is like a family, we’ve learned about bullying and gossip,” Madison said.
Malia said she’s had the opportunity to make new friends.
“I feel like I can talk about things I wouldn’t normally be able to talk about,” she said.
Angie Morrison, a third-grade teacher at Hurley, said she’s been interested in becoming a coach for the program since she met a couple of Girls on the Run participants during her first 5K in Charlotte.
“In the back of my mind I was thinking, “That’s so cool, I would love to start that here,’ ” she said.
So when Hurley Principal Kim Walton sent out an email about Girls on the Run, asking for volunteer coaches, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I’m trying to empower these girls because it’s such an important stage of their life and there is so much they need to learn to go into their teen years,” she said.
“Girls have such a hard time with self-esteem, so I have really enjoyed reaching out to them.”
Morrison said she’s seen the girls making higher grades and treating their peers with more respect since.
“I’m so proud of them because I see them doing good things,” she said.
Kummerow said the program is available for any school, the only requirement is two or three volunteer coaches. It’s free to the school and cost $100 per student, but scholarships are available.
“We’ve never turned away a scholarship request,” she said.
Morrison said she’s hoping the program will expand to other schools in the Rowan-Salisbury district.
“It’s such a great program, it’s so easy and it’s rewarding,” she said. “I hope other teachers and community members will volunteer so more kids can benefit from this program.”
And Kummerow said Girls on the Run isn’t just for athletic girls, it’s for everyone.
“It’s not just about running, it’s about finding your pace in life and as long as you’re moving in a forward direction then you’re great,” she said.
Morrison said at the end of the program she wants the girls to feel powerful.
“I want them to know that they can do anything, they can be anything,” she said. “I want them to love themselves…”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
Here’s a quick quiz on health issues for teens, excerpted from girlshealth.com.
1. It’s a good idea to wash your hands 3 times a day to avoid germs.
2. Your personal music player at maximum volume can damage your hearing in around
3. If you’re wearing high heels, it doesn’t matter how high they are.
4. You should have your period by the time you’re 13.
5. What’s the No. 1 killer of teens?
6. If you want your ears pierced, it’s OK to let a friend do it as long as she washes the needle first.
7. As long as it isn’t heavy, it’s fine to carry your backpack only on one shoulder.
Answers, from Test Your Knowledge, page 1B
1. False. It’s a good idea to wash your hands more often than that. Wash before and after handling food. Wash after visiting someone sick, using the bathroom, blowing your nose or coughing, and touching animals.
2. 5 minutes. A portable music player like an iPod at maximum volume is around 105 decibels, which can do damage in minutes. And once the sensitive cells inside your ear suffer noise damage, they can’t be fixed.
3. False. The higher the heel is, the more pressure on the front of your foot. This pressure can cause serious problems for your feet, your back, and other parts of your body.
4. False. Everyone develops at their own rate. Talk to your doctor if you haven’t gotten your period by the time you’re 15 or within a few years of your breasts starting to grow — or if you’re just concerned. Some girls don’t get their periods until they’re 16.
5. Accidents. Car accidents cause more than 1 out of 3 teen deaths. Accident risk is particularly high during the first year that teens are allowed to drive. Take good care of your body by wearing a seatbelt, driving at or below the speed limit, and never drinking and driving.
6. False. You can’t see germs on a needle, and you can’t just wash them off. Piercings should be done by professionals and under conditions that help prevent infections.
7. False. To protect your body, you want to keep the weight of your backpack even on both shoulders. You also don’t want the pack to weigh more than 15 percent of what you weigh or hang down more than a couple of inches below your waist.
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