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San Diego non-profit empowering girls through exercise, mentorship

Helping young girls achieve a healthy mind and body is what the national non-profit, Girls On The Run, is all about.

“We’re teaching both the physical health with the emotional health and trying to blend it all together for these girls,” said Amanda Kipnis, a coach for Girls On The Run San Diego.

The group of girls, comprised of third to eighth-graders, spent the afternoon sprinting and playing tag at San Altos Elementary in Lemon Grove. Each exercise is paired with a life lesson.

“This is a program that I wish I had when I was their age. It could’ve saved a lot of heartache, a lot of tears,” Kipnis said.

The girls start by discussing a variety of topics before heading outside.

“From choosing healthy friends to standing up to bullies, stop and take a breather, I feel statements… my favorite is turning negative self-talk into positive self-talk,” Kipnis said.

It’s skills that will come in handy in a world where girls are constantly told they’re not enough or they can’t.

“Then Girls On The Run comes in and is like let me give you these confidence steps. This is how you can,” Kipnis said.

It’s also skills 8-year-old Gracie Sanchez said she uses every day.

“It [the program] talks about your feelings and that it’s okay to be mad or sad and then we get to exercise and we run,” Sanchez said.

The running part is what first attracted Alyssa Rojas to the program.

“It’s a lot of fun for me because my brother… he always loves to race me,” Rojas said.

Rojas said she also loves the camaraderie it offers.

“I love to be positive. I get to help other people,” she said.

The goal of the program is for the girls to walk away feeling confident to take on the world around them, no matter how hard it may be.

“Last week at dismissal time, I had a 17-year-old come back and say Girls On The Run gave her the confidence to report trauma,” Kipnis said.

Every year, Girls On The Run holds a 5K race to celebrate the completion of the program.

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