'Girls on the Run' national empowerment program prepares to open in Pratt with registration beginning August 13.

Young girls in Pratt, third through fifth grade, will have the opportunity to register for the 10 week-long, after-school ‘Girls on the Run’ empowerment and healthy living program that will be starting the first week of September.

Registration for the Pratt team, ‘Sunflowers of the High Plains,’ will open on August 13.

Executive Director, Christy Thomas, said the program aims to teach young girls life lessons in positive body image, leading a healthy lifestyle, and how to combat bullying and peer pressure.

Throughout the 10-week course, participants will engage in goal-setting curriculum and a variety of running exercises that prepare the young girls to participate in a celebratory 5k run at the conclusion of the program.

While Thomas’ council is based out of Wichita and covers nine counties, this is the first time Girls on the Run has come to Pratt.

“We definitely have had an interest in the past,” Thomas said. “We’ve had several parents contact us about getting a team started there.”

Founded as a non-profit in 1996, Girls on the Run has over 200 councils around the nation that aim to help pre-teen girls develop positive self-image and healthy lifestyles.

Among their listed core values, Girls on the Run strives to teach young girls the importance of accepting peoples’ differences, standing up for themselves and others, being intentional in decision making, and taking care of physical, emotional and spiritual health.

“Many young girls feel they’re not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough,” Thomas said. “So, I like the message this sends to young girls—just building self-confidence.”

Typically, the program is for young girls in third through eighth-grade, however, it will only be open to girls in third through fifth-grade this time around since this is the first year in Pratt.

Once it gets more established, it will open to the older age groups.

Excited to be able to offer this opportunity in Pratt, Mindy Sluss, site liaison and head coach, said that she plans to have around five coaches to join her in teaching young girls how to deal with adversity through the mentoring program.

At the moment, the program is still looking for a few more volunteer coaches to help with the Pratt program—More information is available on the girlsontherunks.org website for anyone who would like to become more involved.

Sluss said she first heard about the program from several women who were coaches in urban St. Louis while she was attending a ‘Road Runners Club of America’ event last year.

“They told me about the program but I didn’t realize that it could apply to rural America until months later,” Sluss said. “It was at that time, I was witnessing my daughter struggle with girl-peer relationships and several of her classmates struggle with relationships, and I knew immediately, suburbia, urban and rural America suffer from the same issues.”

Sluss decided to take action and bring the program to Pratt this fall to help other young girls who may be facing similar or very different struggles to her own daughter.

“It doesn’t matter what income class, color of skin, or geography,” Sluss said. “We all look to be inspired and be better versions of ourselves. There is no discrimination in that philosophy.”