Wendy Johnston is a social worker at Glenwood Elementary School. Over ten years ago she saw how effective Girls on the Run of the Triangle was at her local YMCA and decided to bring the program to her daughter, Leigha, and the other girls at school. She’s served as site director ever since, helping girls build confidence and realize their true potential.
One of her goals was to support girls who might not have the financial resources to participate, so she met with GOTR of the Triangle staff and the principal to talk philosophy, logistics, and scholarships.
“Every year, I love it more. We met and exceeded our main goal of supporting families in need of a scholarship. It has been a great motivator for girls who say they don't like running, since there are many other activities to do. I have seen attitude issues completely dissipate when friendships are formed. Bullying issues have gotten better as well. I’ve found seasoned fifth-grade GOTR girls to be great mentors to younger girls. The girls love being around the college-age coaches, so their GOTR message is well received. GOTR has become an effective program at Glenwood where we all see the benefits.
Her daughter, Leigha, a shy third-grader who was hesitant to sign up for GOTR, says it helped her break out of her shell. She’s an alumna, former coach and life-long supporter. Her favorite GOTR memory says it all:
“The 5k for my third-grade fall session was my first one, so I was feeling nervous about it. I ran with my mom, who pushed me through every moment where I wanted to give up. With the end of the race in sight, I had a burst of energy and grabbed her hand. Together, we finished the race. There’s a picture of us finishing, both sweaty and tired, but we are running hand-in-hand, and smiling. I was smiling not only to have finished something that seemed so impossible, but also because I knew that the next chapter of my life had started. I now had the ability to use my resources to become a more outgoing, independent person.”
Because of the strong base that was laid in elementary school through GOTR, she felt more able to hold her head up high and be sure of herself. Leigha eventually became the president of her school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter, a sprinter on the track and field team, and held an internship with GOTR of the Triangle. Her success continued into college. She’s the social chair on her university's equestrian team, serves in several student organizations and is a resident assistant.
“Without the leadership that GOTR instilled in me, I would not be where I am today,” she says.
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