GOTR Team at NDE Boosts More Than Running Times

When Kayla Gibson, a kindergarten teacher at Ninth District Elementary School, asked if she could bring a Girls on the Run team to the school, there was no way to anticipate the impact that decision was going to have on the participants, coaches, and the entire school. 
Gibson had hopes of bringing a team to Ninth District since her first year working at the school. Her experience running cross country and building relationships with her coach had an influence on her that she hoped to replicate with Girls on the Run. 

“[My coach] believed in me even when I couldn't believe in myself, and that is what I wanted to bring to the girls at Ninth District. I wanted to show them that they can do anything they set their minds on and that they are capable of doing hard things! I wanted to change their lives, just like my past coach changed mine.” 

With the support of Covington Partners, the Covington Education Foundation, and the Fidelity Women’s Leadership Group, changing lives is what they set off to do in the spring of 2023.

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a nonprofit organization which provides a physical activity-based youth development program. The mission focuses on inspiring healthy and confident girls through a curriculum that integrates running. Lessons focus on concepts such as empathy and conflict resolution, and concepts are reinforced during a physical warm-up game. Student participants run during each session, working to reach their individual lap goal for the week and prepare for the group 5K run in May. 

As GOTR practice sessions continued this season at Ninth District, the coaches not only witnessed changes in the girls during the program, but they also noticed the impact of the program on the students during the school day. 

Fourth-grader Hazel sometimes struggles to get along with her peers during the school day. Her mom registered her for the GOTR program with hope Hazel would have a positive experience with her peers at school. The coaches immediately took note of Hazel’s effort each week, pushing herself to run when she was tired or hot, working to surpass her weekly lap goals. Her self-talk changed to how proud she was of herself for meeting goals, shifting her overall manner and reflecting a positive self-image. 

Tito Cabading, counselor at Ninth District Elementary, stated that Hazel “improved tremendously since the program started. Overall, her demeanor has been more pleasant and she waves and greets people in the hallways.”

Hazel is just one of eleven success stories. Every student and coach had a breakthrough. 

Coach Troher led by example each week as she pushed herself, “I wanted to be a GOTR coach because I wanted to show the girls that you can do hard things. I have never been a runner, but I wanted to try it out and be the definition of perseverance.”

The team certainly demonstrated perseverance. They came together and supported each other through excitement, nervousness, obstacles, and victories. Every girl had a “running buddy” to participate in the race with them; parents, older siblings, teachers, and community volunteers were registered and ready to support the Ninth District GOTR team during the public 5K sponsored by GOTR on May 13. The weather, however, had other plans. 

Due to impending heavy storms, the race was canceled that morning. The initial reaction from the coaches, girls, and families was utter disappointment. All of that hard work, all of that endless running and training, and the chance to complete the 5K together looked like it was not going to happen. The coaches and administration team at Ninth District were not going to let the season end there, though.

Instead, the entire school rallied behind the team to support the girls in their victory in character building, confidence, and strength through a special 5K at Holmes High School. The student body and staff took to the stands with words of encouragement and signs, while the girls took to the track to complete their GOTR 5K. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade lined the inside of the track, manned a water station for the runners, and cheered on their peers until the last one crossed the finish line. Staff took pictures, counted laps for the runners, and announced the race from the press box. Families attended the event, cheering on their students and even joined in the running.

The outcome was nothing short of amazing. It truly embodied the GOTR vision of acknowledging that when we activate our potential and work together, anything is possible! 

Perhaps one of the most telling moments was when coaches received a message the night after the 5K from a parent who attended the race and ran with her daughter. Ms. Tressler reached out to thank the coaches and said, “Kaylee now has more confidence and is excited for next year.” 

We are excited about next year too, Kaylee.

« Back to News