As girls enter into adolescence many changes take place not only in their bodies but in their minds.
Their third through eighth grades may be the most difficult and impressionable time of their lives.
A child's self-esteem is the highest at age 9 and girls often feel comfortable with who they are and their looks, with popularity not mattering much, said Michelle McElwee, clinical director at Diakon Family Life Services and trained council director for Girls on the Run.
As girls enter fifth through 12th grades, two-thirds begin to have negative views of their bodies, whether it be looks or their weight.
With the mission of educating and preparing girls for a lifetime of self-respect and healthy living, Girls on the Run strives to relay their message to girls throughout the area.
An interactive running and life skills program for girls in third through eighth grades, Girls on the Run has reached out to nearly every school district including Jersey Shore, South Williamsport, Muncy, Hughesville, Montgomery, Montoursville and Williamsport.
The program also partners with the Williamsport YWCA, River Valley Regional YMCA, the Campbell Street Community Center and local churches.
Girls on the Run summer programs are a week of activities associated with how to deal with bullying, drug and alcohol prevention, and self-esteem issues.
Programs focus on building self-esteem and self-acceptance, the importance of teamwork and helping others, and promoting giving back to the community.
"The girls have a lot of fun socializing with each other, making new friends as well as taking part in the programs with the volunteers," said Patty Hess, who is a mentor in the Jersey Shore Area School District.
In the past, proceeds from Girls on the Run fundraisers have benefited the Lycoming County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Appalachian Horse and Rescue, Linden, and Shepherd of the Streets.
"The program at its core looks at preventing at-risk behavior by increasing self-esteem," McElwee said. "Each time they meet, an activity is centered around the topic - gossiping, bullying, emotional health - it's about taking a life skill, presenting a lesson, offering a discussion and taking part in a relay race or a game to reinforce the concept."
At the end of program, the girls participate in a 3K jump, skip, run or walk with friends they've made during the program as well as parents and volunteers.
Relying heavily on volunteers, Girls on the Run gives mentors the opportunity to make a difference in young women's lives and act as a role model in the community.
Girls on the Run provides everything needed for the program, including activity supplies, snacks and a T-shirt for the girls to wear during the 3K.
Those interested in the program or volunteering should contact McElwee at 322-7873.