Please read our full story below!
Here is the secret that all athletes understand about sports: it’s never only or always about the game. Athletics have profound impact on our self-esteem and our ability to persevere, not to mention our physical and mental health. With any luck, sports give many of us the courage to get in the game and ultimately teach us how to compete, win and lose with grace. Therefore Girls Run Roosevelt is many things: a running club exclusively for girls, an organization aimed at growing our girls’ confidence, a safe space for friends to learn and grow together, and an opportunity for us, as educators, to gain a fresh perspective on the ways in which we can serve our students.
The girls of Girls Run Roosevelt are a uniquely and beautifully diverse group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Many of the girls are refugees from indigenous communities in Thailand, Burma, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Others are immigrants from Afghanistan, Guatemala, China, and Mexico. Some are unaccompanied minors, which means they immigrated to the US without any adult family and will come to age as part of the US foster system.
A portion of our girls represent the Karen ethnic group, an indigenous people who have endured decades of violence at the hands of the Burmese military regime and who were driven to refugee camps in Thailand to avoid the genocide occurring in their native land. Other girls are Bhutanese refugees whose families were pushed out of Bhutan and into Nepal during the 1990’s. Others are from Sri Lanka, part of families who immigrated to the US seeking asylum from the impact of civil war.
Each of these girls carries a heavy burden of experience and adversity. Now they find themselves at Roosevelt Middle School, facing new challenges that include learning English and integrating into new communities. Additionally, as students at a high-needs school in a low-income neighborhood of Oakland, CA, our girls have limited opportunities to express themselves in safe and healthy ways. Roosevelt is like so many inner city schools with limited resources in that services and activities outside of government mandated essentials often go unfunded. As educators we understand that these “extras” are hardly expendable.
For many of us with fond memories of our years at school, these memories stem from the “extras” we experienced there--the arts classes, the clubs, the sports teams. Unfortunately, a common reality for many of our kids attending public schools in low income neighborhoods is that these programs don’t exist. Girls Run Roosevelt was founded organically out of our students’ need and desire to fill this void. A few teachers took to running after school and quickly a band of girls followed suit. Within days the club was off and running! Sometimes in jeans, ballet flats, or knee-high boots.
Quickly we realized that our girls would need some financial support in order to get access to the types of equipment and gear that make running safe and sustainable. Asking our girls to pay for these necessities out of pocket is not an option as many of their families or guardians struggle to provide the basics. Donated funds provide the girls with suitable clothes and shoes for running, a healthy snack post-practice, and will allow for the club to participate in a few formal races.
Our girls have responded with tremendous enthusiasm at the opportunity to experience organized athletics. As their teachers, it is incredibly moving to see the ways in which they are so eagerly learning and growing as a result of this opportunity.
If you would like to donate in other ways by volunteering to chaperone runs or donating used (and child-sized) athletic clothing or shoes please let us know!