Rebecca Harkless is a second year AmeriCorps member serving in the YWCA Central Alabama’s Social Justice Department. In her service, Rebecca co-facilitates Heritage Panel trainings in area high schools and middle schools. She has also been on staff for Anytown Alabama.
“Girls on the Run, Girls on the Run” calls a teacher over the walkie-talkie. Only a few short seconds later I am greeted by nine energetic, talkative, smiling and eager girls. “Miss Rebecca, what are we talking about today?” “Miss Rebecca how many laps do we have to run today?” “Miss Rebecca, can we do the jump rope game again?” By the time we walk from the school to the youth center (only a short walk across the street), I have been brought up to date on all the latest 4th and 5th grade happenings, been asked a million questions, and wondered if I mistakenly left anyone at school every step of the way.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, I have the privilege of spending my afternoon with nine of the most awesome girls. Through a curriculum that creatively integrates running, each week my girls are inspired to be joyful, healthy and confident. Over the 10-week season they not only become better runners, but they also become more confident.
Being a coach to the girls at the YMCA Youth Center, I know the ins and outs of my team, but I rarely get a chance to work with other GOTR coaches or teams. Some of the girls on my team, and other teams I’m sure, don’t realize that there other girls across the Birmingham area doing the same activities they do every week. Girls on the Run Birmingham is bigger than the YMCA Youth Center or Avondale Elementary; there are 16 teams across the area.
In addition to being a Girls on the Run coach, I am an AmeriCorps member in the social justice department of the YWCA. One of my duties is to co-create and facilitate Girls on the Run’s “Strengthening Our Connections, Celebrating Our Differences” program. For this one afternoon, girls on every team work to break out of the comforts of their own teams and meet and create bonds with girls from other GOTR teams.
This season, girls from each team filed into the YWCA gym and participated in interactive activities focusing on what makes them unique. Each girl was able to identify what made her unique and how that is important to her role on her team, classroom, family and Birmingham community. We asked the girls after one activity, “What if we all brought the same thing to the table? What if we were all the same?”
Now I ask you, “What if we all brought the same thing to the table? What if we were all the same?” Celebrating our uniqueness allows us to celebrate the important roles we play in our community. Although we may be from different sides of town, shop at different places, or like different foods, we each bring important qualities to make up the greater Birmingham community.
Like the girls on my team, we sometimes don’t even realize that we are part of a larger community. It may take a step outside of the comforts of our own team or neighborhood to help us see how important we are to the larger community. Or it may take a Saturday morning run… in a tutu. Join other members of the Birmingham community cheer each other on at the Girls on the Run Community 5K on Saturday. I can assure you that not only will it be the most adorable 5K you have ever seen, but it will be a great reminder of how the unique people and communities work together to create Birmingham!
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