It’s a beautiful and sunny day in Detroit and out in AFG’s backyard a group of fifteen Rise N’ Shine campers have just finished a running game. The group gathers in a circle to discuss the topic of the day. “What is something you did today to take care of your body?” one Rise N’ Shine youth leader asks the group of nine to eleven year old campers. “Exercise!” one girl exclaims. “Run!” another adds excitedly.
Led by a group of youth leaders, the Girls on the Run workshop is just one of the many activities offered during Rise N’ Shine, AFG’s free six week summer day camp that allows girls between the ages of four and fourteen to learn new things, improve their reading skills, and make friends. The Girls on the Run workshop is being funded by the Skillman Foundation and has been made possible through a close partnership with the YMCA, who provided the curriculum as well as program support.
Girls on the Run is a physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd to 8th grade. The program curriculum teaches life skills through interactive lessons and running games and aims to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident. At the end of the program, the girls are physically and emotionally ready to complete a celebratory 5k running event with their fellow group mates.
And throughout Rise N’ Shine the girls will do just that; prepare to run a 5k race being held on Belle Isle in September. During the workshop, the girls run, stretch, do jumping jacks, sit ups, and in between the movement, they stop to laugh with their friends. They encourage each other by running beside one another and cheering each other on. Each girl fully participates in the exercising and the discussions that happen afterward.
Their excitement for the program also comes through when they speak about it. “The Girls on the Run workshop has been the best! It teaches us how to exercise, how to take care of our body, and what to do if we are mad or sad,” Yaritza, one of the girls in the group explains. Although learning different ways to care for your body is one of the focuses of Girls on the Run, there is also a heavy focus on helping the girls build positive self-esteem. “I’ve learned how to speak positively of myself and how to focus on positive talk,” Taysia, another camper shares.
The hardest part? “Running 7 laps,” Tatiana, another participant, laments. However, even though the other girls agree that the running is hard, it does not stop them from enjoying the positive benefits from the workshop. “But I like it a lot. I like that we are being healthy and making great choices for our bodies,” Taysia adds, with a smile on her face. After the final exercise of the day, the girls hurry inside to eat lunch. It is obvious by the smiles on their faces and their laughter that they are learning how good exercise can make you feel, both physically and mentally.