Lisete Andre Cleary after receiving her distinguished award,with husband, Matt, and daughter, Ava.

by Colleen Kelly Howard

It might be said that Lisete Andre Cleary’s Girls on the Run (GOTR) journey began by embracing the same core values that led to the honor bestowed upon her by Girls on the Run International (GOTRi) last Thursday. Lisete, better known to her team as “Coach Cleary,” agreed to fill a coaching vacancy at her daughter’s school, Norwood Fontbonne Academy, during the Fall 2018 season.

From the beginning of her three-season coaching tenure, Lisete’s dedication to the organization and the girls she led through the 10-week program was clear. As a health and wellness consultant with a passion for advancing women and girls, bringing the GOTR lessons to life for her team came naturally. An excerpt from Lisete’s award nomination, submitted by her coaching partner, illustrates Lisete’s ability to connect with the girls and desire to make the program meaningful for each of them by going above and beyond her coaching duties:

Lisete’s co-coach at Norwood, Taylor Liddy, wrote the following as part of the nomination: “She inspires me and our team each day with her vision to make their GOTR experience the best it can be by providing her own real life experiences to the lessons and helping the girls find how their own lives and experiences relate. She is the perfect role model to spread the core values and mission of GOTR because she too shares those same ideals, of being intentional in decision making, embracing our differences and leading with an open heart and positive intentions.”

Lisete was one of the 24 coaches honored with the Girls on the Run Remarkable Volunteer Award in 2019. Awardees are selected from over 100,000 volunteers who support GOTR programming across the country each year. The award is bestowed upon extraordinary volunteers to shine a light on the inspirational impact they have on GOTR.

The surprise award presentation took place during the final fall practice for the Norwood team last Thursday. When asked about her favorite aspect of GOTR, Lisete said, “Each girl becomes a braver, more confident version of themselves. They gain a greater sense of self and a bit more of an edge in a good way … true grit about what they can accomplish and who they are.”

For me, Lisete’s honor had a personal meaning because my daughter participated in the program for two of the three seasons Lisete has led the program at Norwood. For two seasons I had a front-row seat to see the positivity and confidence Lisete instilled in her girls. Her genuine connection to the lessons and their meaning in her own life enabled her to connect with the girls and impart the lessons in a way that really resonated with her girls.

Lisete’s contribution to supporting GOTR in Philadelphia, headquartered at 40 W. Evergreen Ave., hasn’t been limited to coaching the team at Norwood. Last spring, she got involved in the GOTR program and marketing committee and worked with the GOTR staff to prepare a coach recruitment plan, select and manage a summer intern and deploy a social media campaign to recruit coaches for the upcoming season. She has personally supported fundraising efforts and has recruited friends and family to fundraise to ensure that girls who could not afford to participate in GOTR would have access to the program.

During the Spring 2020 season, GOTR will offer programming at 50 sites throughout Philadelphia. To learn more about becoming a GOTR coach, visit GOTR Philadelphia is an independent council of GOTR International, which has a network of over 200 councils across the U.S. and Canada.

GOTR is a physical activity-based youth development program for girls in 3rd through 8th grades that teaches life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with the girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event.

Colleen Kelly Howard is the executive director of GOTR Philadelphia.