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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Girls on the Run Empowers Girls by Teaching Essential Life Skills

Willow Junior Life Coaches

By Teri Stevens

Girls on the Run North Bay inspires girls, ages eight to thirteen, to be joyful, caring, healthy and confident using a fun experienced-based curriculum which creatively integrates movement. The life-changing after-school program fosters girl empowerment by teaching life skills through engaging discussions, experiential games and activities, culminating with a community service project and the completion of a 5K run.

Because girls face social pressure and conflicting messages about how they should act and who they should be, they need Girls on the Run now more than ever. Studies show by adolescence, girls confidence drops about twice as much as boys. COVID-19 has created additional stressors, including social isolation, anxiety and more limited opportunities for physical activity.

The ten-week program, offered twice a year in the spring and fall, enables participants to develop essential skills to help them learn to stand up for themselves and others, as well as establish a lifetime appreciation for their social, emotional and physical health. During 75-minute sessions, twice a week, led by trained volunteer life coaches, girls learn the five Cs: Confidence, Character, Care, Connections and Competence.

A Shearer Elementary mom shared that her daughter, “learned tools to help her stand up to bullies.Girls on the Run has really helped her. She doesn’t want to miss a session.”

The spring 2022 program kicks off in-person on March 7 at Napa Valley elementary schools, including American Canyon, St. Helena and Calistoga. In addition, Heart & Sole, featuring curriculum geared to middle school age girls, will be offered in Napa. Girls on the Run North Bay was founded to empower girls and, in that spirit, warmly welcomes the participation of any child who identifies as “girl”, non-binary, or gender expansive to the program.

Executive director Janet Todd, known as Joyful Janet, is still inspired by the girls and volunteer life coaches after fifteen years. Todd first got involved with the nonprofit after leaving the corporate world. Todd was motivated to empower girls to be bold and empathetic leaders. She and three other women launched the program in 2006 with just 30 girls at two Napa school sites. Since its inception 15 years ago, 8,000 participants have been positively impacted by the non-profit. In 2020 alone, 650 girls at 52 schools in Napa and Solano counties participated.

To further reach and impact more girls, Girls on the Run Napa & Solano merged with Girls on the Run Sonoma in January of this year. The new organization will be renamed Girls on the Run North Bay and Todd will continue as executive director. One of the tenacious new members of Todd’s leadership team is program manager Extraordinary Elba Marguez, who was a Parent University Coordinator for On The Move at Willow Elementary and NVUSD Parent Liaison at Willow and Phillips elementary schools. In addition, Marquez is on the English Learner Advisory Committee, District English Learners Advisory Council president and Parent Faculty at Willow Elementary, River Middle School and Vintage High School.

Joyful Janet shared “I am ecstatic with our new team. We are confident that together with our volunteer life coaches we will empower more, particularly our more vulnerable families, and help our community be more inclusive, diverse and equitable.”

A key component of the program’s success are volunteer life coaches who lead approximately 15 girls, twice a week after-school, during the 10-week sessions. Volunteer coaches, include parents, teachers, school administrators, college students and other community members who are committed to empowering girls with valuable life lessons.

According to volunteer life coach Amy, “This is such a powerful program for young girls, I love being a part of it.”

The role of a volunteer life coach is to facilitate, motivate and mentor young girls using fun, research proven curriculum that inspires participants to believe in themselves and their dreams. The curriculum is recognized as a top research-based program in a review of social-emotional learning programs by researchers at Harvard University, and as one of the most influential after-school programs by the National After-school Association.

Life coaches are trained using Girls on the Run International training; a self-paced, interactive program online, paired with in-person experiential outside training. Volunteers don’t have to be a runner to be a positive and healthy role model. Additionally, high school students and Girls on the Run Alumna are encouraged to participate as junior volunteer life coaches.

“A 5th grader who had been more quiet in 3rd grade, has become more confident in sharing her thoughts at Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run has helped her find her voice,” according to volunteer life coaches from Fairmont Elementary in Vacaville last fall.

Interested in making a positive impact this StrongHER Together spring? Volunteer life coach in-person training from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. will take place February 19 in Napa and February 26 in Solano. Visit for more information and to apply.

In addition to the after-school programs, Girls on the Run North Bay launched a summer camp focused on emotional health in 2021, which will take place again this year. The organization also offers three $1,000 college scholarships a year to graduating high school seniors who have completed at least one Girls on the Run program or have volunteered as a junior life coach.

Registration for the Girls on the Run 2022 StrongHER Together spring session begins February 7, 2022. Visit for program details and to sign up.

Registration for the GOTR 2022 StrongHER Together Opens February 7, 2022 |

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