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Aug 28

After school program to return to SK this fall –

SOUTH KINGSTOWNGirls on the Run, an after-school program which combines physical exercise with social-awareness and confidence-building activities, will be offered this fall through South Kingstown Parks and Recreation, following a successful first go in the town last year.

Throughout the 10-week course, girls learn life skills including how to manage their emotions and how to resolve conflicts, all while training to run in a 5K race.

Its empowerment-building for girls, just to feel confident in themselves and be able to communicate with other kids they go to school with, said Lenka Capek, recreation supervisor at South Kingstown Parks and Recreation. Its just a great program were able to offer the community, incorporating running with social issues.

Established in North Carolina in 1996 as a way to inspire girls to be healthy and confident, Girls on the Run has since become international. The program, which, according to its website, envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams, arrived in South Kingstown last year.

Girls on the Run is split into two programs, based on ageone session, dubbed Heart and Sole, is geared toward middle school girls in grades six through eight, while another session invites 3rd through 5th graders. Each class follows a lesson plan, including individually-set running goals.

Each lesson is based on the previous lesson, Capek explained, so it builds and builds and builds.

For example, one of last years lessons dealt with social encounters in the middle school. Girls were given cards depicting various social situations, and while jogging laps were required to come up with responses.

On one card, girls were asked to respond to being the only one of their friends not to be invited to a birthday party.

And there were all these questions that were follow-up based on how youd react to it, Capek added. How would you handle it? How would you feel?

[They learn] not just to have a meltdown during a situation, she continued, now theyll now how to handle itwell talk through certain steps to take before they overreact.

The curriculum for the elementary school girls and that for the middle schoolers is each age-specific. While the curriculum for the older girls deals with situations and changes that girls in middle school often go through, lessons for the younger girls focus more simply on emotions and feelings, with group bonding exercises sprinkled in.

And although there is inevitably some shyness initially, Capek said the difference at the end is palpable.

We see them 20 timestwice a week for 10 weeksand you go from that first day, when no ones talking, she said, to the last day, when you cant get them to stop talking.

Once they got over [their shyness] they became more open with us and talking, in general, she continued. We had some difficult issues and we had some simple issues and we worked through them together.

Capek recalled a participant in last years Girls on the Run who upon completing the 5K run at the end of the 10 weeks broke into tears.

She was so happy, she added. She didnt think she would ever be able to do this.

For many of the girls who enter into the program, the furthest distance theyd ever run had been the mile-run during physical education class at school.

A lot of them didnt think they could run a 5K, Capek added. And now, here they are running it and finishing it.

And many girls had parents join them during the 5K run as their running buddies.

It comes full circle, Capek said. The parents arent there for really any part of it up until the end, when they get to see their kid in the 5K.

The race, which this year takes place at Warwick City Park on Nov. 19, includes Girls on the Run participants from around Rhode Islandstatewide, there are 23 Girls on the Run (3rd through 5th grade) groups and just two Heart and Sole groups, including SK. In fact, last years first-place finisher came from the South Kingstown Heart and Sole group.

She wrote us a card that said, I couldnt have done this without you, Capek said.

You see night and day from the first day to the last, she continued, and its really, really rewarding on our part, as well.

The last day to register is Sept. 7. The program meets beginning Sept. 12 at the South Kingstown Recreation Center Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the 6th through 8th grade program meeting from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the 3rd through 5th grade program meeting from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Registration is at

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After school program to return to SK this fall -

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