Hoosac Valley Sixth-Graders Participate in Girls on the Run Program

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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CHESHIRE, Mass. -- Hoosac Valley High School students clad in red working out on the track after school is to be expected.
On Monday, a baker’s dozen of middle schoolers dressed in pink took their place.
It was the final training day for the sixth-graders’ Girls on the Run chapter. And they went out in style, taking laps around the track and the school itself while getting encouragement from members of the school’s girls lacrosse team, some of whom joined the youngsters as running buddies.
The sixth-graders were gearing up for a 5-kilometer race at Springfield College on June 2. And they were celebrating 10 weeks of running, learning and fellowship after school with teachers Amanda Wright and Shelby Gale and Hoosac Valley Dean of Students Elizabeth Phoenix.
Girls on the Run is a national program that began in North Carolina in 1996. Its mission: “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.”
The national organization claims more than 200 local councils -- including one based in Williamsburg -- and in 2015 had its millionth girl pass through the program.
Gale brought it to Hoosac Valley for the first time this winter.
“One of my friends on the other end of the state works in a school that has it, and she said it was really going well,” Gale said. “She was getting to engage with her students on a different level, so we wanted to start it here.”
Gale and her colleagues led the 13 girls through a 10-week program on Mondays and Wednesdays after school until about 4:15.
In addition to the physical activity -- in the beginning, that included runs through through the school’s hallways -- the Girls on the Run program offered lessons in social and emotional learning.
“We talked about girls making friends, resolving conflicts, romantic relationships, stress management, making good decisions, and then there’s usually an exercise and a running component for each lesson,” she said. “We build up to our 5K.”
Distance running is not something with which the 12-year-olds in the program had much experience.
“Most of them play soccer and dance and have done different activities, but I don’t know that they’ve run a 5K before,” Gale said.
The after-school program both promotes fitness and overall wellness.
“All of the challenges are connected, so the first one they set goals and they learn about goal-setting and how that applies to academics and and their social-emotional life and athletics,” Gale said. “Each lesson has a lot of discussions, so we get to hear from them in terms of their goals and challenges they’re facing, what’s going on with them in the day-to-day.”
Monday was a special day as the high schoolers joined the sixth-graders to celebrate their success this spring.
Throughout the campus, groups of girls lacrosse players were stationed with fun activities to break up the long training run. They provided drinking water, squirted the runners with “silly string,” handed out leis, held signs and did a lot of cheering for the Girls on the Run contingent.
Claudia Bresett, a senior on the girls lacrosse team, said Gale approached the team about getting involved.
“She said she wanted a group of girls who were good examples for the younger girls, so they could strive to be powerful women when they’re older,” Bresett said. “She thought the girls lacrosse team would set a good example with how well we’re doing in our season to show them how far girls can go.”
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Three Berkshires Women Named 'Unsung Heroines'

Liz Mitchell and state Rep. John Barrett III at Tuesday's 2019 Unsung Heroine ceremony at the State House. 

BOSTON — Three Berkshires women were named Unsung Heroines for 2019 during a State House ceremony on Tuesday.

State Sen. Adam G. Hinds nominated Donna Cesan for this recognition because of her dedication to community, having served as Community Development Director and interim Town Administrator for the town of Adams for 19 years.

Elizabeth "Liz" Mitchell, a North Adams resident and advocate for domestic violance victims with the Elizabeth Freeman Center, was nominated by state Rep. John Barrett III and Marie Richardson of Pittsfield, a caseworker in the Pittsfield Public Schools, was nominated by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.

"Donna has selflessly given countless hours of her time to ensure Adams is moving in the right direction," said Hinds. "She is well-respected in her hometown of Lanesborough, and the town of Adams is well-served by her. She is absolutely an Unsung Heroine for her dedication to our region and her professionalism, which is effortlessly showcased in all of her projects."

Massachusetts Commission of the Status of Women annually celebrates "unsung heroines" who don't always make the news, but who make a difference. They are the women who use their time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others and make a difference in their neighborhoods, cities and towns. They are mentors, volunteers and innovators who do what needs to be done without expectations of recognition or gratitude. These women are the glue that keeps a community together and every community is better because of their contribution.   

Hinds said Cesan has dedicated her career to public service. As the director of community development, she has spearheaded economic development projects with big impact, like the construction of a platform for the Adams terminus of the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum's Hoosac Valley Service, the renovation of the Adams Visitor Center parking lot and implementing the community's vision for the Greylock Glen. Since 2014, she has been asked twice by the Board of Selectmen to also serve as interim town administrator, managing every aspect of municipal government for months, while also promoting community development initiatives in town.
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