students and coaches at 5kTwice a week at Park Brook Elementary, after the final bell signals dismissal for the day, 27 girls gather for a different kind of after-school activity.

Thanks to a partnership with Girls on the Run Twin Cities, these students have the opportunity to engage in learning outside the classroom with a curriculum that inspires them to be joyful, healthy and confident.

And running—they do a lot of that, too.

For more than three years, Park Brook has fielded one Girls on the Run team in the fall and two teams in the spring. Pamela Fleagle, school counselor at Park Brook, serves as the head coach, while fourth grade teacher Renee Pelton is the site liaison and first introduced the program to Park Brook.

The girls practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, and their season culminates with the Girls on the Run Spring 5K, held this year on June 1 at the Mall of America. In addition to completing the Girls on the Run curriculum, participants also plan a community impact project each season.

“[The community impact project] is an integral part of the program,” said Fleagle. “It helps the girls get to know one another and builds community within our teams.”

student making summer survival kitWhile past projects have included creating fleece blankets for youth cancer patients and helping Park Brook staff with school projects, runners this year voted to create “summer survival kits” for Osseo Area Learning Center (OALC) students. From toiletries such as deodorant, toothpaste, soap and lip balm to sunscreen donated by Orangetheory Fitness in Maple Grove, the girls hope these kits will make life a little easier for OALC students during their time away from school.

“This project gave our Park Brook girls an opportunity to provide for older students,” said Melody Hahn-Merges, OALC school counselor and a coach with Park Brook’s Girls on the Run program. “The focus of the project was really about letting OALC students know that they are appreciated and wishing them a good summer.”

In addition to the summer kits, Park Brook runners also created cards to help bring cheer to children who are currently in the hospital. It all harkens back to one of the organization’s core values of expressing joy, optimism and gratitude via thoughts, words and actions.

“Through these community impact projects, our girls are utilizing the skills they’ve learned this season—cooperation, star power, and how to be a good teammate and friend,” Fleagle added.

And, in the end, what could be more important than that?

TOP PHOTO: Students and coaches from Park Brook Elementary's Girls on the Run program at the spring 5K on June 1 at the Mall of America.

BOTTOM PHOTO: A Park Brook student creates a "summer survival kit" for Osseo Area Learning Center students on May 28.