Dedication: Monika Allen
In my early teens, we moved to San Diego after many years in Newport Beach, CA. This move forced me to leave the only friends I had known and start a new life. Once in San Diego, I was tagged with the identity of “new girl” which left me feeling isolated and with low self esteem. I needed a way to make friends. My mother signed me up for Girls On The Run [GOTR], which teaches girls ages 8 – 10 to accept and to love themselves for who they are while also getting the benefits of exercise.
I showed up for the first day of practice not knowing what to expect. But, as the weeks went on, I was able to proudly say that I had made friends in my community. Soon, the vast area that was San Diego began to feel more and more like home and, based on my GOTR lessons, I had begun to view myself in a different way. I did not fully realize it at the time, but I was developing an improved self-image.
The lessons I’d learned from GOTR guided me through my high school years. Therefore, in my junior year, I was inspired to give back by volunteering to be an assistant coach for GOTR at Stone Ranch Elementary School. Our season got off to a great start with 12 girls, 3 enthusiastic assistant coaches and 1 experienced head coach. During each lesson I learned alongside the girls and I saw friendships begin to blossom. As the season went on, our head coach had to resign due to a work conflict. Since none of the older assistant coaches could assume the head coach role, the program was left in uneasy waters. However, I hoped that it would continue because I understood the program’s value from my own prior experience. Therefore, I offered, at 16 years old, to become head coach, even though I knew that the minimum age requirement was 21. The GOTR administration was hesitant at first, but I was persistent, and eventually was able to convince them I was up for the task.
Having no experience in this area, it was a struggle at first. Planning the lessons and coordinating people’s calendars took an unexpectedly large amount of time and effort. I had to push myself in directing the assistant coaches since they were much older and more experienced than I was. I learned what to do by “trial and error”. I wrote the program emails multiple times in order find the best way to communicate important information to the assistant coaches. I worked on setting up the lessons so that the girls could have some fun along the way. Sometimes, we would run out of time, therefore, I had to make adjustments to the lessons in order to finish while not losing focus on the key messages. It was a real struggle to balance all these new demands with my school schedule, however, my academic performance still met my goals.
With hard work and practice, we ended the season successfully having every girl finish the 5K race. GOTR has truly impacted my life in a positive way. I am honored to have been able to help preserve a community program as well as to help young girls form friendships in their immediate neighborhood. Even better, it’s been very satisfying to see the girl’s self-image improve. These rewards mentioned above seemed to be a pivotal benefit for the girls and the balancing of my schedule alongside learning to be a head coach seemed to be a tough but manageable challenge. I believe that the coaches and I made a significant, positive impact on these girl’s lives. We contributed to building the “fabric” of a community through our efforts in making a safe, healthy, and accepting environment for our girls.
Girls on the Run International and Say It Forward are committed to the empowerment of girls everywhere. We believe that every girl has an important story to share – a story of determination and perseverance, a story that can inspire others to overcome the self-limiting beliefs that keep them from reaching their fullest potential. We are also committed to empowering the women who invest their time and energy in these girls.
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