Kensington Program Empowers Girls Through Fitness, Community Service

A program intended to build confidence in a small group of girls in third to fifth grades at Kensington Intermediate School in Rocky River blossomed into a program with 44 participants and nine parent coaches.

Girls on the Run uses trained coaches who lead small teams through a research-based curriculum that includes discussions, activities and running games. Over 10 weeks, girls in grades 3through 8 develop essential skills to help them navigate the world and establish a lifetime appreciation for health and fitness. The project culminates with girls positively impacting their community through a service project and completing a celebratory 5K event.

The program was established at Kensington in 2016 and was offered twice a week, attracting six volunteer coaches and 40 girls. Kensington teachers Noelle Yohman and Cheryl Zenko assistant in the program and volunteered as coaches. In its second season, the program grew to nine coaches and 44 participants.

Now in its third year, the volume has soared to 14 community members signing on as coaches for 80 girls in the program. The Kensington program is the largest and most active Girls on the Run program in Northeast Ohio.

Parent Melissa Heavey, who serves as the school’s site liaison, said the program is a success thanks to a supportive community.

“I think the program grows itself as people learn about its principles of empowering girls in many aspects of their lives, such as friendships, facing peer pressures, and their health. It also stresses the importance of being actively involved in their community through a community impact project each season that the girls organize,” Heavey said. “It’s awesome to see the girls’ confidence grow throughout the 10 weeks within their discussions and their workouts. They grow stronger emotionally and physically, and I think they see it in themselves, too, which is spectacular.”

“Melissa and volunteers made GOTR a reality for girls at Kensington,” said Principal Todd Murphy. “There was an immediate waiting list during the first year. Melissa worked tirelessly to make this program a success for girls at Kensington.”

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