Annie Janick, 17, remembers how much Girls on the Run helped her adjust and make friends in the fourth grade, when she moved to Fort Mill, S.C., from Dallas, Texas.
But she’s worried young girls in the tri-county area of South Carolina (that’s York, Chester and Lancaster counties) will miss out on opportunities she enjoyed.
“There’s usually a wait-list at elementary schools for girls to get into the program, and a limited number of girls who can participate because there aren’t enough coaches,” said Annie, a junior at Fort Mill High.
Girls on the Run is a 12-week after-school program that meets twice a week and serves girls in grades 3-8. In addition to team-building exercises, discussing topics that encourage positive development and running, teams are expected to complete a service project in their communities. The program ends with the team running a 5K together and with friends and family.
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Annie, who has served as an assistant coach for the past three years, devised a solution: For the tri-county chapter of Girls on the Run, she’s formed the Teen Advisory Board. To expand the program, she’d like to galvanize a group of high-schoolers to recruit volunteers at their own schools and to volunteer as assistant coaches and at events.
Being an assistant coach involves preparing for and attending the twice-a-week practices to help teach lessons, run with the girls and mentor them, Annie said. Girls who can’t commit to that can volunteer in other ways, she said, particularly for the 5K event after each fall and spring season. Seasons run from 10 to 12 weeks.
Last winter, Annie made a detailed plan and outline for the Teen Advisory Board and presented it to Lindy Morris, the tri-county chapter’s council director.
“I just thought it was a great idea,” Morris said. After refining the plan and guidelines for the board, Annie worked to get the word out by emailing school athletic directors.
“I’ve been very impressed with her dedication, her maturity and her drive to do something good and give back,” Morris said, adding she’d love to see previous Girls on the Run participants apply for the board, but that volunteers don’t have to have previous experience with the program.
In addition to volunteering with Girls on the Run, Annie runs cross country for her high school team and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and kayaking. With math and science as her favorite subjects, she’d like to be a medical researcher someday.
The first deadline for Teen Advisory Board applications passed with a lukewarm response, so Annie has extended the deadline to May 17. Girls interested can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said she hopes a strong board will form to alleviate the shortage of programming at local schools, which she’ll continue to volunteer at next year.
“It’s been really rewarding to give back to the program that gave me so much confidence and helped me.”