Volunteer Spotlight: Girls on the Run Coach + Mentor Sonia Rodriguez Ibarra
Meet Sonia Rodriguez Ibarra, 21 years old and a recent graduate from UNC Greensboro with a degree in Public Health. While finishing up school, Sonia managed to volunteer time as a girl’s mentor and coach with Girls on the Run, at not just one, but at three different schools in Buncombe County. Having recently relocated to Hendersonville, North Carolina, she credits her experience as a volunteer coach at Hominy Valley, Glen Arden Elementary, and the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club for bringing her closer to the community.
“Even though I’m only 30 minutes away, I got to know more people here in Asheville,” she shared one afternoon in the Girls on the Run office. “The girls were all amazing to get to know and just watching their different styles of interacting with the program was really interesting. Some loved to run and others I had to really encourage much harder.”
Sonia found out about Girls on the Run through her niece, who participated in it with classmates at her school. After seeing a call for volunteers online, Sonia decided to reach out and ask how she could get involved as a recent graduate and someone new to the area. When asked if she is a runner, she laughed and said, “I’m not running 5k’s or anything like that,” but I run at the gym and stay active.
More than a Running Program
Girls on the Run Executive Director Karen Wallace-Meigs jumps in and adds, “To me, it’s so much more than a running program. The 5k is just a celebration after pushing yourself and graduating from the lessons you learn along the way during the coaching process.”
Sonia laughs and says the girls did ask a lot of questions because every session together included a lesson focused on different aspects of their lives. Those lessons focused on attitude, positive and negative self-talk, bullying, gossiping, and really helped the girls share their thoughts and feelings on those topics before they were encouraged to find their stride in walking or running that afternoon.
Program Director Stephanie Bilotta shares, “It’s important for the girls to see the coaches coming from all different walks of life--different ages and genders, and influences from all those different perspectives. Everyone is in a different place and can provide insight from their own experience. It’s great to see a girl who’s more of a walker to have a coach that’s more of a walker, and see what that looks like so they’re able to push themselves safely, and maybe even feel encouraged to run a little bit so they can relate to that as well.”
Volunteer to Become a Mentor/Coach for the Fall 2019 School Year
Sonia agrees and said she’s already registered to coach for the fall school year. Volunteer coach trainings are being held August 10th and August 24th. If you’re interested in being a coach, you can find out more and register through the Hands On Asheville-Buncombe volunteer site. If you’re interested in lending a hand, yet aren’t able to commit to 10 weeks, they’re also in need of 5k volunteers on December 8th and one-time volunteers at the office or in outreach at special events.
“Every girl is number one on their bib,” shares Wallace-Meigs. “We don’t care if you can run fast, we’re just asking you to try something you haven't done before.”
* United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County is honored to help fund the work of Girls on the Run through our competitive grants process. Their commitment to empowering young girls through mentorship supports our mission as an organization to reduce the impact that poverty has on the lives of students, families and communities here in Asheville and Buncombe County.