Join Brett Gilliland with Courtney Berg as they talk about shaping girls into strong, competent leaders. Courtney is the executive director of Girls on the Run St. Louis. The organization empowers girls for a lifetime of healthy living. In this episode, Courtney shares how the organization carries this out through its program.
Shaped by Experiences
As a child, Courtney learned to swim first before she could walk. Because of that, she was on the swimming team. Then, when she went to the University of Michigan, Courtney played the piccolo in the marching band. That was what forced her to get out of her comfort zone. After that, Courtney took Sociology and Spanish in college and even went to Spain for a graduate program. Back in the US, she taught in a Detroit bilingual school while she was taking other courses and learning. Courtney was putting herself in places where she learns and meets different people. Looking back to these experiences, it was the catalyst that pushed her to do something beyond herself. She joined Teach for America and ended up teaching special education in San Jose, California. Courtney then attended Brown School in St. Louis for her post-graduate studies. Opportunities came and one of them was from Girls on The Run. Courtney’s experiences were her motivations that made her succeed in her line of work. She ultimately believes that everything we do points us to a direction unknown to us at the moment. For Courtney, everything in life is intentional.
Empowering Girls to be Leaders
To ensure that girls become strong and competent leaders, the organization uses an evidence-based curriculum in its program. Courtney explains that it is based on adolescent brain development. Through its eight-week program, the organization has a mastery-oriented performance climate dedicated to grasping skills. In addition, they creatively integrate running into their program to fulfill its mission of ensuring that the girls are happy and confident. A study they conducted in collaboration with Prevention Research Center at Washington University showed that 97% of girls have significant growth in their self-esteem after going through their program. Moreover, their five-year projection found out that despite these girls not going back to the program, they still outperform their non-participatory peers. These results motivate Courtney and the rest of the trainers and coaches at Girls on the Run to continue their work.
About Courtney Berg:
Courtney Berg, Executive Director, joined Girls on the Run St. Louis in October of 2011. However, her introduction to the organization began in the Fall of 2003 as a coach for St. Gabriel the Archangel School in St. Louis. After teaching high school self-contained special education in Northern California for three years, Courtney arrived in St. Louis to begin her Masters in Social Work at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. An e-mail during orientation led Courtney to learn more about a program that “empowered girls through running.” The Girls on the Run team at St. Gabe’s was an enthusiastic, energetic group of girls that left a real impression upon Courtney; she focused her MSW studies upon culturally competent youth development programming and the impact of running as a therapeutic intervention.
Prior to joining Girls on the Run St. Louis, Courtney served as Director of Catholic Charities Southside Center for five years, overseeing the development and implementation of culturally competent programs and services at a community center serving more than 400 clients a month across Eastern Missouri and Illinois. A bilingual (Spanish) Licensed Clinical Social Worker, her work focused upon meeting the needs of immigrant and refugee populations through comprehensives youth programming, mental health, and social services. In addition, Courtney has served as an adjunct professor at the School of Social Work at Saint Louis University, as a community liaison for the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, and as a Spanish instructor at St. Louis Community College.
Courtney received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish from the University of Michigan and her Master of Social Work from the George Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.
Outline of the Episode:
[00:49] Overview of how Courtney became part of Girls on the Run St. Louis
[10:28] What Girls on the Run St. Louis does to empower girls
[14:03] How to be involved in the organization
[17:53] Strategies that make the St. Louis chapters so successful
[22:01] Certain schools in specific areas targeted by the organization
[23:18] Lessons the pandemic taught Courtney and her husband
[27:59] The challenge of being a leader in the middle of a pandemic
[32:46] Ways people can contribute to Girls on the Run St. Louis
[36:26] Apps that cannot be taken off of Courtney’s phone