Avon Girls are Happy to be Themselves
Third and fourth-grade girls at Avon Center School have been building their self-esteem through an after-school character development program. Fifteen Avon girls will participate in the "Girls on the Run Chicago" 5K Saturday.
A wave of Girl Power will spread from Grayslake all the way to Toyota Park in Bridgeview Saturday as local students participate in the largest girl-centered 5K in the United States--Girls on the Run.
The national character development program, which provides participating schools with lessons and materials, builds self-esteem and promotes strong values and healthy lifestyle choices for girls ages 8 to 14. The curriculum also combines training for a 5K (a 3.1-mile run).
On Saturday, girls from Avon and Frederick schools in Grayslake District 46, and from Woodland District 50, will enjoy a day of fun with friends and family where there are no scores and no awards because everyone is a winner.
This is the fourth Girls on the Run program year and ninth race for Avon Center School, said social worker Christina Payton, who has helped coach the girls with fellow staffers Breanna Atlee and Mary Loukopoulos.
"Our weekly lessons started after Labor Day," said Payton.
The exciting culmination of the program is the 5K. Races are held twice a year and there are 15 girls on a team, said Payton.
"We have a waiting list (to get into the program)."
Girls on the Run
To prepare for the big day, Avon girls ran up to 12 laps around the school, earning a colored bead for each lap completed. At the end of practice, the girls joined their coaches, other staff and some parents, in stretching exercises.
They cheered, "Girls on the Run is so much fun!"
"I think it will be hard and easy," said third-grader Nathalia Johnson of the 5K, who proudly showed off her beads.
Fourth-grader Paola Tostado said she was looking forward to the race, which will be her second. "It's fun because you get to hang out with your friends."
Ashlyn Maiden, another fourth-grader who is also participating in her second event, said because of Girls on the Run, "I have learned how to pace myself and run faster."
For fourth-grader Allie Cowlin, Saturday's 5K at Toyota Park will be her third. Cowlin said she has learned a lot from Girls on the Run.
"It shows me that I can trust my friends in here and be a better person. It's OK to be yourself."
Over the past 13 years, Girls on the Run-Chicago has served more than 27,000 girls aged 8-14 across 6 Chicagoland counties. In 2012, more than 1,000 coaches will mentor 8,000 girls, according to their Website.