SIOUX FALLS - A program that teaches young girls self- respect and healthy lifestyles is expanding across the Sioux Empire. Girls on Track is a ten week after school  program that teaches girls in grades 6th-8th grades to be self-confident and to make good life choices.

Running is incorporated into the curriculum. Middle school is when girls start to look at themselves trying to figure out their self-worth.  Oftentimes the image girls create of themselves is not always a positive image. Many girls that age are not happy with what they see and some of that is due to comments from their peers.

Girls on Track shows the girls how to set goals for themselves and stick to them.

Girls on Track Coordinator, Heidi McCormick said, “It creates self -esteem. They learn what they can do rather than how they look. They are taught though activities that get them motivated.”

It works like this. The girls meet twice a week after school for an hour and a half. During that time they are taught a variety of lessons, everything from peer pressure and bullying to nutrition, healthy eating and relationships, dating and internet safety.  It’s not just classroom lessons, they use exercise in all of their discussions and at the end of the 10 week program the girls participate in a non-competitive 5K run/walk on May 5 at Falls Park.

“We have great reaction to this program,” said McCormick.

Girls on Track is offered at 13 middle schools this spring. Each site takes up to 15 girls. Trained volunteers teach the classes. The cost of the class determines what you can pay. It is run through the YWCA and is supported through United Way. The sliding fee scale is $25-$100 per participant. But don’t let the price deter you from signing up your daughter.  “There’s no girl ever turned away based on the inability to pay,” said McCormick.

Girls on Track in the “big sister” program to Girls on The Run, a similar program but for girls in third through fifth grades.  Both programs rely on donations of money and volunteers to be successful. Contact the YWCA at 605-336-3660 to get involved.