Posted Jen Gardner on 11/13/2015 |Featured Columns & Series
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Towards the end of each season, thousands of Girls on the Run girls work with their team to plan and implement a community impact project. This project is a key element to the curriculum for a variety of reasons. First, it helps the girls set, work towards and achieve a goal, resulting in a strong sense of accomplishment when they see the project from beginning to end. Second, it gives girls an opportunity to use the skills they have developed during the season. They are able to take what they have learned and apply it in a meaningful way. Finally, since the project is driven by the girls themselves, they feel a sense of ownership over the project and are empowered to do similar work again.
The community impact project takes many forms. Some teams create projects on a larger scale, such as a bake sale to help earthquake victims, or a school supply drive for children in Iraq, while other teams complete smaller projects, such as writing thank you letters to teachers or cleaning up their school’s campus. One of my favorite community impact projects took place on our team last spring.
One of the girls on our team had recently visited the website you-are-beautiful.com and wanted our community impact project to be similar. This website encourages people to stick small, silver “You are Beautiful” stickers around their city as a much needed reminder to people that they are the beauty that makes up our world. After sharing this premise with the other girls, the team was in agreement that this should be our community impact project. They brainstormed how they could bring this concept to the school without using stickers and decided on chalking “You are beautiful” around campus. On the day the community impact project was implemented, the girls divided up the campus, broke into groups and set off to make their area a bit more beautiful. The phrase “You are beautiful” lived on the sidewalks and buildings of the campus until rain washed the words away the following week. While they weren’t able to tell what direct impact they had on the school community, the girls’ smiles were a little brighter each time they walked by one of their chalkings, proud of how they left their mark on the school.
After the “You are beautiful” project, two girls on my team were empowered to do just that. They wanted everyone to feel loved and appreciated, so they created “Positive Day,” a day where you anonymously leave positive statements for others. With minimal help, the girls brainstormed their plan, met with the principal, made posters and transformed their idea into action. On the selected day in May, “Positive Day” took place in the 4th and 5th grade building. The girls were amazed by the incredible participation and felt proud of themselves for helping others feel valued.
For many of us the phrase “community service” conjures up memories from middle or high school of fulfilling a requirement. By completing the community impact project, our girls start to see giving back to their community as a way of life, not just a requirement to be met. They realize that small acts, as well as big ones, can ignite positive change within a community and that they hold the power to make these changes. Through the community impact project, girls embrace and put into practice the GOTR core value to “Express joy, optimism, and gratitude through our words, thoughts and actions.”
As we head into the season of giving back and giving thanks, think about how you embody this value and find ways to give back to your community.