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Participants in the Girls on the Run program do a warm-up exercise. Pictured are (from left to right): Sophia Vaughn, Emme Sopeland, Kailee Perch, Savannah White, Sierra Vela, Melissa La Spisa, coach Brandi Waugh and Arielle O’Connor.

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Girls empowerment program up, running

On a hot afternoon in early September, girls race around a set of bright orange cones in Green Valley Park with their coaches. Most run, some skip and one does cartwheels. “Good job!” yells coach Casandra Stouder. Instead of name tags, each girl wears a sticker with an emotion or feeling listed such as “Happy,” “Creative,” “Fun” or “Joyful.” They laugh, enjoying the physical activity. At no time does the word “win” cross anyone’s lips. Instead, participants hear shouts of encouragement and enthusiasm. The coaches organize the girls in a circle to begin talking about positive and negative thinking. The girls offer examples of what they believe that means to them. The activities at Green Valley Park represent the start of the internationally recognized program, Girls on the Run. A recent Tuesday launched the first day of a three-month program for girls from Julia Randall Elementary and Rim Country Middle School.

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