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Running Club: St. Mary’s School, Holy Family School

Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body, but it’s good for the mind and soul, too. Students at St. Mary’s School in Cortland and Holy Family School in Syracuse have seen the benefits firsthand, as both schools have running clubs that promote physical fitness, emotional well-being and character building.

Promoting Female Self-Esteem

St. Mary’s offers a program based on Girls on the Run (, a national nonprofit that “works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games.” This 10-week program for third to sixth grade girls is under the direction of second grade teacher Theresa Smith and fourth grade teacher Marisa Gobel, who both enjoy running.

Photo provided by Mary Babbles of Holy Family School

Girls on the Run begins each spring at St. Mary’s in anticipation of an end-of-the-school-year 5K. “Most of the girls think they’ll never be able to run that far, but, by the end of the year, that sense of accomplishment is just great to see,” said Smith. “It gives them goals and helps build self-esteem.”

The program is not just about running, however. Girls on the Run also focuses on service projects, conflict management, peer pressure and other issues girls in their tween years are navigating. “We work our Catholic values into the activities we do during the Girls on the Run meetings,” said Smith.

“Most of the girls think they’ll never be able to run that far, but, by the end of the year, that sense of accomplishment is just great to see.”

– Theresa Smith, Second grade teacher at St. Mary’s School

At the end of this school year, the girls plan to participate in the national Girls on the Run organization’s 5K at Onondaga Community College.

Photos provided by Mary Babbles of Holy Family School

Morning Runs Form Lifelong Habits

While Holy Family School’s running club is not as formal as St. Mary’s, it is just as effective. Under the guidance of kindergarten teacher Christine Isbell and physical education teacher Kevin Hoag, both boys and girls in kindergarten through grade 6 come in at 7:00 a.m., before school starts, for a half-hour session held in the gymnasium.

The club meets from November through May. Often, the younger children buddy up with the older students for encouragement. Twenty-five laps around the gym equals one mile, and the students enjoy tracking their progress. At the end of the school year, students receive a certificate of achievement for their accomplishments. Those students who can’t attend the morning session have the option to work with Hoag during gym classes.

Photo provided by Mary Babbles of Holy Family School

While no formal 5K is in place for the end of the school year, some of the children participate with their families in community activities like the Good Samaritan Run, which raises money for Christian Health Services of Syracuse, and Paint Westvale Purple, which supports a number of local nonprofits.

“I like the idea that kids are finding something that they like to do,” said Isbell, who last fall completed the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. “It keeps them active, and running is a self-motivating thing as you work to beat your own record. Best of all, it’s forming good habits for life!”



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