By Ukee Washington
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Volunteers across Philadelphia are helping girls ages 8 to 13 grow to be capable and confident. They’re doing it through running. Eyewitness News anchor Ukee Washington met one of the dedicated volunteers.
School is out and sneakers are on inside Masterman School on Spring Garden. This is Girls on the Run, a national non-profit dedicated to making girls stronger in mind and body through running.
But before running, there’s talking. Fifth grade science and literacy teacher Mimi Romeo helps these 5th and 6th graders list ways to support each other.
“And it gets them to just feel not so isolated, especially the fifth graders because they work with the sixth graders,” Mimi said.
Outside, the girls have their first run of the season, four laps around the block. Each lap, they get a wristband from volunteer coach Rita Duszak.
“It makes you smile when you hear somebody encouraging you,” said sixth grader Riley Keenan.
Rita comes here twice a week to coach the girls. She’s a longtime marathoner, so you have to move fast to talk to her.
“Do you get some complaints now and then? ‘That’s too tough! That’s too long!'” asked Ukee Washington.
“Absolutely!” Rita said. “Our main rule here is, you always have to keep moving.”
“It felt painful,” said fifth grader Hela Alhuraibi. But as they persevere twice a week over 12 weeks, running longer distances each time, they feel increasingly confident.
“After days when I have a lot of tests, it feels good to be able to be in fresh air,” said sixth grader Erica Panei.
And they’re thinking about their futures.
“When you grow up and you want to get that job, you can just ace the application,” said sixth grader Fred O’Donnell.
One more benefit: When the weather isn’t nice, the girls get to run inside the school.
“Who wouldn’t love running through the hallways?” said Rita.
“You don’t even need a pass!” Ukee said.
“You don’t even need a pass! Exactly!” Rita said.
The big goal for the girls is to run a 5K in December. Girls on the Run is a national non-profit that coached more than 160,000 girls across the country last year. To find out more, find them at www.girlsontherun.org.