Maureen Weiss, Ph.D., professor in the School of Kinesiology, was recognized with the Legacy Award, the highest honor given by Girls on the Run International at its annual Summit in Austin, TX, in January. Girls on the Run is a 501(c)(3) organization and physical activity-based positive youth development (PA-PYD) program designed to enhance girls’ social, psychological, and physical skills and behaviors to successfully navigate life experiences. The program uses running and other physical activities as a platform for teaching life skills and promoting holistic health outcomes for girls in grades 3-8. The organization’s reach is national—in all 50 states with over 200 local community councils, 50,000 volunteer coaches, and over 1.5 million girls served since inception. The organization is committed to diversity—serving girls from all walks of life and backgrounds. Nearly 50% of girls receive subsidized registration fees to enable them to attain the psychosocial and behavioral benefits of participating in each season’s 10-week program.
Weiss’ Legacy Award was based on eight years and hundreds of hours devoted to serving this non-profit organization—as a board member, consultant, speaker, and contributor to curricular development and effective coach delivery—as well as conducting an independent longitudinal evaluation study that demonstrated strong and lasting positive impact of program participation on girls’ life skills learning and psychosocial and behavioral outcomes—confidence, competence, connection, caring, character, and contribution to community and society. The study received widespread attention in a press release last August and Weiss presented the study results at the Summit meeting in a presentation titled, “How and Why Girls on the Run is an Exemplary Positive Youth Development Program.”