When it comes to teamwork, nothing stops these girls on the run. This team of girls runs for health, self esteem, fitness – and including girls with disabilities.
The team has adapted their activities to include disabled students, and it is breaking new ground for teaching physical activities for students of varying abilities.
Nayelie is one of six girls participating in Girls on the Run Empowered, a running team that uses an adapted curriculum for students with disabilities.
Nayelie learned to do a somersault the week before her interview.
“That one’s tricky,” she said as Ritenour explained about her limited hand mobility.
The Lafayette team is the first of its kind for Girls on the Run of Lancaster. The nonprofit organization, part of a national program, started in 2009 and has 955 participants this year.
Girls on the Run teams follow a series of twenty lessons and workouts focused on building girls’ self-esteem. The fall and spring seasons each culminate in a a countywide, non-competitive 5K.
To include students from her life skills class, Ritenour modified the curriculum and Lafayette’s adaptive phys. ed. teacher, Nicole Ober, adjusted the workouts.
Ritenour said the goals of the lessons stayed the same.
“A lot of what I was changing was the vocabulary used to explain the concepts and then use of additional supports for that.”
For example, she might use picture cards or an example from students’ lives to explain an idea rather than just reading about it.
The team also practices for a shorter time period.
Ritenour explained that because of different mobility levels of among the girls, their exercises include things like scooter races and army crawling on mats.
“Addie has been a real pioneer,” said Carrie Johnson, executive director of GOTR of Lancaster.
“(She’s) lifted limitations, which in our mind there never were any, and now there truly aren’t.”
During one of two weekly practices, the Lafayette girls join with the team from nearby Hamilton Elementary to make the program inclusionary.
“We want other schools and districts to look at Girls on the Run Empowered and not say ‘we want to create a team for girls with additional needs,’ but ‘any girl with any need could come join our Girls on the Run team,'” said Ritenour.
Ruth Hailemicael, 11, likes participating with her older sister, Tisnat, 13, who uses a wheelchair.
“I just like spending time with my sister. She’s special in my life,” Ruth said.
Both the Lafayette and Hamilton teams are gearing up for the GOTR Lace Up Lancaster! 5K on May 17.
Ritenour said all the girls who can will start out walking. Some use crutches to do so.
“Then they’ll jump in their stroller or their wheelchair, and then all the girls will finish the race (walking) to get their medal,” Ritenour said.