You Grow Girl! to host 5K on Saturday
By Bert Lehman
After talking to her sister, who was teaching in the Chicago Public Schools, and hearing about a program called Girls on the Run, Lynette Edwards thought a similar program would be beneficial in Clintonville.
Based on the Clintonville community, and the fact there were no Girls on the Run programs close to Clintonville to partner with, it was decided to create something similar in Clintonville.
You Grow Girl! was founded in the fall of 2011.
“It’s a program for middle school girls. Part of our mission is to empower them to be confident and teach them to think positively and think about making the world a better place,” said Edwards, who is the business manager for the Clintonville School District.
She said the program is designed for 15 girls to participate in each session, one in the fall and one in the spring. Each session is around 10 weeks long, and girls meet twice a week for about 90 minutes after school.
“We try to make it convenient so girls don’t have to try to find a ride back to school,” Edwards said. “This year, with the after school bussing, that’s really helped with transportation for girls.”
When the girls meet there is usually a theme for discussion. Some themes have included body image, body language, and media distortion. Sometimes craft projects are done, in addition to some sort of physical activity.
“We always emphasize that when you exercise it always increases how positive you feel about yourself,” Edwards said.
The number of participants has fluctuated over the years, but there has been great support for the program from the beginning, Edwards said.
Several local business and private citizens donated money to help get the program started. The school district also allows the group to use it facility and some of the resources in the facility.
“Now the program is strictly funded through the 5K that we put on every year. That’s how we keep it going,” Edwards said.
The first 5K event hosted by You Grow Girl! took place during the 2011-12 school year. From the beginning, girls in the program have competed in a 5K at the end of each session.
This year’s event is called the Superhero 5K, and is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14, at the Clintonville High School track.
“Superheroes seem to be real popular right now. We thought it would be a lot of fun for the kids, especially the middle school age kids,” Edwards said.
She added that in this year’s sessions, it was discussed what it means to be a hero.
“You don’t have to have magic powers or anything, you can just be something special to someone in very small ways,” Edwards said. “Our tagline for the 5K is anybody can be a hero. We just want to make that known and highlight that.”
Edwards said participants are encouraged to dress as superheroes.
“We’re expecting capes and masks,” she said.
She added that participants still need to dress in a way where they can run and walk safely.
New this year is the Wise Guys program for middle school boys co-hosting the event with You Grow Girl!
“That was one of our coach’s ideas,” Edwards said. “She thought that the theme we had already picked, the superhero theme, and the fact that Wise Guys is always a huge supporter of our 5K, we thought it really lent itself nicely to bring them on and partner with them.”
The 3.2 mile course starts and ends at the track at Clintonville High School. In between, participants travel on the high school trail and a few city streets.
“It’s a noncompetitive event,” Edwards said. “We don’t have timing chips. We don’t give prizes for the place you come in. It’s really just about finishing and celebrating that accomplishment.”
As of a week before the event, Edwards said there were 225 people signed up to participate in the Superhero 5K. She said that is more than last year. The first year the group hosted a 5K there were less than 100 participants. The highest participant total was a couple of years ago when the event was held at night. More than 400 people took part in that event.
Since this is a fundraiser for the group, there is a fee to participate in the 5K. The fee ranges from $10-$20.
When asked her thoughts on how the You Grow Girl! program has gotten to where it is today, Edwards said, “If one girl can take one thing, if that’s all it is out of our program, it’s worth the time and effort we’ve put in.”