Girls on the Run: La Jolla team is ready to celebrate athletic and emotional growth

From left: Kenia Alcantara, Rohita Dhanekula, Roshni Dhanekula, Anna Beckman, Mia Sakurai-Spenny and Tess Morgan
Members of the La Jolla Girls on the Run team include (from left) Kenia Alcantara, Rohita Dhanekula, Roshni Dhanekula, Anna Beckman, Mia Sakurai-Spenny and Tess Morgan. Not pictured is Noa Kramer.
(Stephanie Silverberg)

Ten-week program for girls in grades 3-5 blends physical activities and social-emotional lessons.


With a foundation of fitness and friendship, several La Jolla girls are on the run toward achieving their goals.

The La Jolla chapter of Girls on the Run San Diego, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the physical and emotional health of girls in grades 3-5, will join 21 other chapters at a “5K Extravaganza” on Sunday, Dec. 4, at De Anza Cove at Mission Bay.

The event is the culmination of a 10-week program in which the La Jolla team, made up of seven students at La Jolla Elementary School, progressed through physical activities integrated with social-emotional lessons on campus after school twice a week.

Head coach Stephanie Silverberg said the curriculum involves warm-ups, teamwork and games that enable the girls to work individually and as a team.

Assistant coach Nancy Rice, a first-grade teacher at La Jolla Elementary, said each session has a theme, such as “Star Power” or “Beauty Inside,” and focuses on a particular skill.

In taking on the lessons, the girls get “to know themselves, work on relationships and realize they can have an impact on the community,” Rice said.

Watching the girls start to embody the qualities championed in the lessons has “been a great process,” she said. “How they encourage each other has been great.”

Silverberg began coaching for Girls on the Run more than 10 years ago and recently returned, starting the La Jolla chapter this fall after her older daughter — who will join the La Jolla team next year — enrolled at LJES.

Silverberg said coaching for Girls on the Run “has been super impactful — even more after I had my daughters.”

The program has helped girls navigate the trials of early friendship, she said, along with building self-esteem and empowering them to deal with bullying and gossip.

Every lesson incorporates “so many little nuggets for them,” Silverberg said. “It’s so amazing to see” the decline in shyness and increase in confidence.

Simultaneously, the girls are “teaching me something about being a kid, how to work through challenges and seek support.”

La Jolla team members say they’ve enjoyed the season.

Anna Beckman said Girls on the Run “helped me run better, was enjoyable and helped me make a lot of new friends.”

Kenia Alcantara said “I love being part of a team! Girls on the Run helped me make friends in my new school and learn that I like to run for fun.”

Being in Girls on the Run “is so much fun,” Tess Morgan said. “It makes me stronger.”

Rohita Dhanekula said she enjoys being on the team “because it is helping me gain more stamina and mental strength.”

Roshni Dhanekula said “it’s been teaching me how to train my body for sports.”

“I love running with my friends,” Noa Kramer said.

Mia Sakurai-Spenny said Girls on the Run has taught her “to believe in myself.”

Members of the La Jolla team of Girls on the Run raised money for area causes during a bake sale.
(Stephanie Silverberg)

As part of the training program, each team is tasked with creating a community impact project “driven by [the girls],” Rice said. “What they want, who they want to help and how.”

The La Jolla team chose to make cards for patients at Rady Children’s Hospital and raise money for the hospital, Father Joe’s Villages and the San Diego Humane Society.

The girls raised more than $800 during a bake sale at Kate Sessions Park. The money is to be split among the chosen organizations.

Silverberg said she’s proud of the girls’ efforts to set and achieve their goals, both in the training and their community project.

The Dec. 4 5K for all San Diego teams will be a chance for the girls to celebrate all they’ve done together.

“It’s not competitive,” Silverberg said. She added that her team finished a practice 5K recently and “felt very accomplished.”

“I’m impressed with how good the program has been for the girls,” Rice said. “They’ll say things about how proud they are of themselves and how happy they are when they achieve [their] goal.”

“I’m so happy to be their coach,” Silverberg said.

For more information, visit