Twice a week, a group of elementary school girls race to a different classroom at the end of the day. After learning about math, science, and reading, these girls look forward to learning something new, not with their teacher, but with their coach.
Cassandra Colon was recently named head coach at Carrie Gosch Elementary School in East Chicago, Indiana for the spring program with Girls on the Run of Northwest Indiana. She has worked as a coach for two seasons and this spring will name her third. Girls on the Run is a non-profit organization serving girls in third through eighth grade. It is a 10-week, curriculum-based program that inspires girls to define their future and build their self-image. As a current teacher, Colon said being a Girls on the Run coach has helped her become a more positive and inspirational leader, not only with the program, but in teaching as well.
“I have to be positive and remember to comment them on good things that are done and celebrate small efforts and wins. I learned not to focus only on the negative, but always do something positive,” she said.
Colon began coaching for the program in March 2015 for the spring season. She wanted to be involved at Carrie Gosch Elementary and wanted something to do after school.
“I keep coming back to coach because I really like the program, from going to the coaches training and learning about the lessons. All aspects of it, it is a really great program. My favorite thing about Girls on the Run is being able to teach girls the positive life skills they need as they are growing up and becoming young ladies,” Colon said. As head coach, she prepares and teaches the lessons to the girls, takes attendance, provides a snack and makes sure all girls get home safely.
Previously, Carrie Gosch did not have many after school programs for girls, so when Girls on the Run came to the school, Colon said the girls were excited to have something to do.
“It is something the girls can do and be proud of. They look forward to each practice, and as soon as the season ends, they ask me when it is going to start again,” she said.
The program is all about girl power and with lessons about exercise, positive reinforcement and encouraging role models, Colon loves seeing the girls grow throughout the ten weeks.
“It is inspiring to see them not wanting to give up and they push themselves,” said Colon. The program does not look for girls who can already run a 5K, but Colon said she has seen girls go from not enjoying the exercise to jogging a couple laps and running around the track.
Girls on the Run concludes with a celebratory 5K and the girls can reflect on their accomplishments and all the hard work they put in during the season. Colon said it is a day of excitement, fun, dancing, face paint and pictures, and all the girls are dressed in the same T-shirt. Many of the groups make tutus or capes and even wear crazy socks!
“The girls do not realize how long a 5K is because we are used to running around in our school for a certain amount of minutes or outside on the track. On the day of the race, the girls get so excited, there are so many people, and everyone is there for the same reason. It gives them the extra motivation to do it,” said Colon.
The program revolves around teamwork and motivation. She said she loves to see the different cross of ages and enjoys watching the girls work together and mentor each other. Colon enjoys being an influential aspect on the girls and continues to learn more about herself through this experience.