NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–“New Brunswick Runs Proud,” a free after-school program that helps prepare third, fourth, and fifth-grade girls, both physically and emotionally, to complete a 5K road race, is recruiting college volunteers for its upcoming spring season.
The program starts on Tuesday, March 24 at Lincoln Elementary School, and meets two days per week for 6-8 weeks during the season.
Now in its sixth consecutive year, New Brunswick Recreation's Nydia Adorno told NB Today that the first time she held the program it was called “Girls On The Run,” and was part of a national program.
But, following the second spring season she teamed up with certified running coach, Anne Finetto, who is also on staff at Rutgers recreation, and the two created “New Brunswick Runs Proud.”
On average, 25 girls come out for the free program. However, after a week, some of the students “naturally decide it’s not for them,” and the group winds up consisting of 15-20 girls who remain registered, to train.
“The girls get up to running their 5K pretty quickly,” said Adorno.
She said the program is currently held only at the Lincoln Elementary School, where she runs it through the Youth Services System (YSS) after-school program.
”It’s not just for YSS students but it makes it easier since those kids are already staying after school,” said Adorno. “I’ll take them as long as they want to participate and they want to run.”
Adorno said she usually asks the parents to enroll their child in the afterschool program just for the days that coincide with the Runs Proud program.
YSS provides comprehensive after-school programming for New Brunswick residents ages 6-15 at seven New Brunswick Schools throughout the city.
The training program, which focuses on more than just running, culminates with a 5K run each season: In the fall the girls run the annual Big Chill. But in the spring, the 5K is more homespun:
“For my spring season we do our own 5k, and we do it around the school, and the afterschool program gets really involved and they make banners and they cheer the girls on while they’re running,” said Adorno.
She said more girls complete the spring 5K, compared to the fall 5K because the Saturday raceday for the Big Chill would require the girls' parents to come.
However, the most recent Big Chill last December drew about 12 girls and their parents, said Adorno, who compared the excellent turnout to the first time the group participated in the Big Chill, when only four or five girls competed.
“It’s a great program. I think we emotionally and physically get them ready we build confidence in them, we don’t only focus on running, we also do some life-skills, we talk about healthy eating, self-esteem, and bullying,” said Adorno.
“We don’t just focus on running, as a work-out either. We do a yoga class, we do Intensati [positive affirmations], which is really interesting as a group class. So we try to expose them to work outs that they wouldn’t normally do.”
She said that Rutgers hosts the yoga class, which is a mixture of dance and Zumba, adding that Finetto helps her out with the running work outs.
“She plans the routes, how much the girls should be running and all those kinds of things,” said Adorno. “She’s my Rutgers connect, so she brings me all the Rutgers college students.”
Both Adorno and Finetto train side-by-side with the girls, as do the volunteers. If inclement weather does not allow outdoor training, then they run in the small Lincoln School gym.