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Washtenaw United: Moving To An Empowered Future With 'Girls On The Run'

Washtenaw United
David Fair
89.1 WEMU

"Girls on the Run" is a national program with a Washtenaw County chapter.  It is a 10-week program designed to get girls moving but with an even more aspirational goal: Empowerment and confidence.  In  this week's "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair talks to two of the program's leaders, Rhonda Fields and Manuela Yost.  Plus, you'll meet one of the program's beneficiaries, Yost's daughter, Linda Gomez.

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw County to explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'



Rhonda Fields

Washtenaw United
Credit Rhonda Fields
Girls on the Run executive director Rhonda Fields

Rhonda graduated in 2010 from the University of Michigan with a BA in Education and MSW in 2012.  Beginning her career as a student teacher at Erickson Elementary in Washtenaw County and later, a School Social Worker within Wayne County, Rhonda is passionate about creating opportunities for students to succeed outside of the classroom.  As a Girls on the Run coach, Rhonda saw firsthand the impact of the Girls on the Run program on program participants, their families, schools and communities as a whole.  In the role as Executive Director, her goals are to continue to support the veteran and new volunteers who support the Girls on the Run program within their communities, highlight the significant impact of Girls on the Run's donors and sponsors in supporting the Girls on the Run scholarship fund and increase the number of girls of color served by the program.  In a time where girls are underestimated and undervalued, Rhonda is a firm believer in the organization's mission of creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. 

Manuela Yost & Linda Gomez (daughter)

Washtenaw United
Credit Manuela Yost
The joy of 'Girls on the Run'

Manuela Yost is the Site Leader at Abbot Elementary in Ann Arbor.  Manuela has coached with Girls on the Run since 2017 and is joined by her daughter, Linda, a current 6th grader who participated in Girls on the Run for 3 years.


Girls on the Run of Southeast Michigan

Girls on the Run Programs

Independent Study of Girls on the Run by Dr. Maureen Weiss


Studies show that girls’ self-esteem drops dramatically relative to their male counterparts as they enter adolescence.  By age 9, girls’ self-confidence begins to decline.  This sharp drop is related to a host of unhealthy behaviors in adolescence and declining physical and mental health thereafter.  Physical activity levels decline starting at age 10 and continue to decline throughout adolescence.  However, girls who are physically active have lower risks of developing physical and emotional disorders and demonstrate higher levels of self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image, as well as higher energy, motivation, optimism and achievements. 

United Way of Washtenaw County has invested in Girls On the Run scholarships to ensure that girls who may not typically have access to quality youth programming have the opportunity to participate. 

One key strategy United Way has identified for improving youth outcomes is programming that facilitates youth-adult relationships.  Research shows that youth with a single-supportive adult in their life are more successful in school and have the social and emotional security to build skills and learn how to navigate life. 

The data tell us that economically disadvantaged youth have worse outcomes than their counterparts: including higher rates of depression and thoughts of suicide.  (Source: WACY Report Card).  Programs like Girls On the Run introduce positive experiences designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological, and physical competencies to successfully navigate life experiences.  Volunteer coaches are trained to build relationships with girls, create a positive, inclusive environment, support individual improvement, and deliver the intentional curriculum.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at

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