HARLINGEN – She’s a firecracker.

You might not see it right away. However, when the moment’s right, Alana Lujan’s vitality explodes onto the stage or the classroom, or the playing field or the workplace.

Alana, 9, was one of 12 girls at Rodriguez Elementary who took part in Girls on the Run this spring. The national non-profit organization is dedicated to empowering girls through various activities.

“It’s a program geared toward girls building their life skills, building confidence, and building lifelong friendships,” said Michelle Ayala, assistant principal at Rodriguez. These qualities are achieved through a 10-week program of exercise and teamwork activities. Teamwork included Alana, a third grader, and another girl literally trying to get themselves out of a bind.

With bright enthusiasm she bent her arms slightly and drew her elbows back.

“We did it like this,” she said, explaining how she and another girl worked together to stand up. “We did teamwork,” she said. “We were pushing each other. We were trying to get up.”

This was the first year Harlingen schoolchildren have participated in the program. Another 10 girls at Stuart Place Elementary also participated in Girls on the Run activities.

“It was fun,” said Natalia Garza, a Stuart Place Elementary third grader. “I liked the 5K run,” added Evie Martinez, 9, who also participated in the program at Stuart Place. The girls were still jubilant after completing a “celebratory” 5K run April 8 to end this semester’s program. “In the end they cheered for us,” added Natalia, 9.

Coaches at both campuses were happy for the girls.

“I think you can tell my girls grew up,” said Jessica Pompa, fourth grade teacher. “They didn’t know each other very well,” Pompa said, adding they’re much more sociable with each other.

The program encouraged the girls to believe in themselves and be more positive. They did exercises in which one girl said something negative and another countered with something positive. In another exercise, they had to negotiate their way off a large sheet on the floor. Other exercises involved puzzles.

“We got together in groups. We had to figure them out together,” said Maria Sandoval, a fourth grader at Stuart Place.

The activities taught the girls how to share their emotions with others.

“Before the program I was always really shy and I didn’t’ want to come up to someone and talk,” said Atiana Rocha, 11, a Rodriguez Elementary fifth grader. “All the lessons come together for new inspiration,” Atiana said.

Teachers and coaches say parents are hearing about the program and want their daughters to take part next year.

Bio Box

Mission

We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.

VISION

We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

OUR CORE VALUES

Girls on the Run honors its core values.

We strive to:

• Recognize our power and responsibility to be intentional in our decision making

• Embrace our differences and find strength in our connectedness

• Express joy, optimism and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions

• Nurture our physical, emotional and spiritual health

• Lead with an open heart and assume positive intent

• Stand up for ourselves and others

www.girlsontherun.org