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'Girls on the Run' Looks to Build Life Skills for SD Youths


Thursday, July 28, 2022   

In early August, fall registration opens at several South Dakota locations offering a national program geared for grade-school-age girls. It combines social and emotional skill building with physical activity.

Girls on the Run is a nonprofit, which built the youth development curriculum. It is carried out by roughly 200 councils in North America, with trained volunteer coaches leading spring and fall seasons.

Jasmina Nelson, program coordinator for South Dakota for the group, said they want to help the target age group navigate new situations they encounter, such as bullying.

"We want the girls to understand that who they are is very unique and special and that they should be confident in who they are and their unique abilities," Nelson explained.

This after-school activity lasts for 10 weeks, capping the season off with a noncompetitive, celebratory 5K run. There is a registration fee, but organizers say they are willing to work with families on overcoming any cost barriers to ensure access to the program. The South Dakota locations with upcoming registration can be found on the local chapter's website.

Nelson pointed out they also thrive on volunteers and encourage interested adults to learn more about helping out. She added the running component is just a catalyst for the mission, and the girls are not pressured to become track stars.

"It's all about the movement," Nelson noted. "They can hop, skip, jump all the way across their finish line, or they can run whatever their pace is."

The program is designed for girls in grades 3-8. Most of South Dakota's sites are for the younger grade levels. A study by the University of Minnesota found 85% of program participants improved in areas such as confidence, caring and connection to others.

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