Every day in Central Pennsylvania, there are dedicated young people doing great things. While we can’t shine the light on all of the amazing kids out there, we are happy to highlight some of our socially responsible young citizens. In the process, we hope that they may inspire others to make a positive difference within their communities. Nominate a young person you know for Caped Crusader!
Several years ago, Alexandra (Alex) Hosey found herself struggling. She no longer liked sports, and her self-confidence was suffering. Then she met Melissa Ark, the Girls on the Run coach at Mountain View Elementary School in the Central Dauphin School District. Alex was not a runner. “Oh, no. Not at all,” she says, laughing. But Ark asked for her help regardless. The coach said the girls needed someone closer in age to them. The high schooler rose to the challenge.
Soon the helper graduated to junior coach. According to Ark, over her six seasons with Girls on the Run, Alex has deeply enriched the experience of all the girls on her team by offering them support and encouragement and by being a positive role model. The girls look up to and respect Alex, and she loves being a part of their team.
Girls on the Run (GOTR) is a national program that was formed in North Carolina in 1996; since then, it’s expanded to all 50 states. Girls on the Run Lancaster, serving both Lancaster and Lebanon Counties, was formed in 2009, and the GOTR Capital Area, serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry and part of Lebanon Counties, was formed in 2011. The program is designed to teach girls to find their worth, their voice, celebrate their bodies and deal with challenges and conflict in a positive and healthy manner.
“In her role as Girls on the Run coach, Alex has been dedicated to serving as a role model to our girls and has demonstrated to her team how to put the Girls on the Run core values into practice, especially embracing our differences; finding strength in our connectedness and standing up for ourselves and others,” wrote Gillian Byerly, director of GOTR Capital Area, in her nomination of Alex for Central Penn Parent’s Caped Crusader honor.
“Over the past three years, Alex has developed a deep and special bond with the Girls on the Run at Mountain View,” says Byerly, who attended the Caped Crusader presentation event at the school. “She has known some of these girls since they were third graders and has helped them navigate many of the challenging experiences during these key developmental years, such as sibling rivalry, being bullied and body image insecurities. She has seen them grow and mature emotionally and physically. She has watched them test their fledgling leadership skills in planning their community impact projects, and she has seen them become role models for the younger girls on the team.”
Alex was not a runner when she started helping with Girls on the Run, but she most definitely is one now. A senior at Central Dauphin High School, she will attend James Madison University in the fall. “The campus is very wide, so I can run,” she says when asked what she’s looking forward to at the university.
At press time, she was preparing to run a half-marathon at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in D.C. After that, she’ll have another very important race: the annual GOTR 5K at Hershey Park in May with her Mountain View Elementary students. During the race, each girl is paired with a “running buddy”— a parent, a teacher, an older sibling or a coach who runs alongside them, offering encouragement and making sure they stay safe from traffic. Kayla Bishop, 11, has chosen Coach Alex as her running buddy for the past three years.
“She’s fun,” says Kayla, giggling, when asked to explain why she likes her coach so much. “We like to put stickers on her tongue. She even swallowed some!” (Disclaimer to alarmed parents: the girls helped Alex celebrate her 16th birthday last year by covering her face with stickers. She may have accidently swallowed one or two.)
Alex gets a lot of joy from the girls, and from the culminating 5Ks.
“There was this one race, and this girl was the very last one still running,” says Alex. “I went back to help her finish. She was really excited at the start of the race, but at the end? She was just beaming as she crossed the finish line. She was so proud, so excited. I wish I could have stopped that moment in time,” says the young coach, beaming a bit herself.
Leslie Penkunas is the editor of Central Penn Parent.
Know of a great kid who gives back to the community? Nominate him or her to be a future Caped Crusader by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org; the next Caped Crusader will appear in our July issue!