Once a week during the school year, approximately 55 fourth- and fifth-grade girls from West Lane Elementary School in Jackson gather with several teachers to train for a 5k run.
The program, called the We Run Club, was started in September by Laura Skelton, a teacher at West Lane.
"Dr. Fischer, our assistant superintendent brought the idea to Mrs. Skelton," says Allie Chesnut, a fifth grade teacher at West Lane. "Mrs. Skelton shared the idea with me, and together, we got it going."
The group meets after school from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.
"While we do our stretching, we try to work in a mini-lesson on things like self-esteem, team work or personal hygiene because the girls are at the age where they are starting to get in touch with all that," Chesnut says. "For example, if the lesson is about team work, we might have the girls run with a partner that day and encourage them to help keep that partner going, and help them to keep their energy and motivation up during the run that day."
The goal is for the group to participate in a 5k run at the end of the school year.
"We want each girl to finish the 5k no matter what their pace," Chesnut says.
In addition to Skelton and Chesnut, several other teachers volunteer their time to the running club as well including Hannah Robinson, Staci Glass, Kelley Kasten, Kayleen Shaw and Mrs. Allison Walters.
"Not everyone can be there every time, but we all jump in and help out and it comes together each week," Chesnut says.
After stretching, the girls and teachers divide into smaller groups and run at various locations, including the Jackson Junior High track, the West Lane playground and around area neighborhoods.
"The girls are really excited about (the club)," Chesnut says. "They were actually really bummed out when we told them that we were going to take a break from it over Christmas vacation!"
About 25 percent of the fourth- and fifth-grade girls at West Lane are currently participating in the We Run Club, which is in its first year.
Hillary Eckley is a fifth-grader at West Lane who is a participant in the We Run Club.
"I like doing it because all of my friends are there," Eckley says. "We split up into groups and run together around the school and other places."
Chesnut wants to build on the program and hopes to get even more girls participating in it next year.
"I love doing it and I really want to keep it going," she says.