WILISTON – It is week nine of First Strides VT’s annual program, and the recreation fields are buzzing with women tying their shoes, stretching their legs, and eyeing the workout for this week’s First Strides VT gathering.

There are eight groups of women who make up First Strides VT, an exercise program in the summer that aims to rewire the mindset of exercise.

First Strides did not begin on the recreational fields of Williston, where these 125 participants and 17 mentors meet each week. Mentors work with each group and, program coordinator Kasie Enman said, many mentors actually begin as participants in the program.

The program has its roots in Pennsylvania, according to Enman, who has been with the program for nine years. She coordinates alongside Eileen McCoy.

More than an exercise program

Jane Serues began the program in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1997, according to First Stride VT’s website.

The program spread to Vermont when the first coordinator of the Vermont program, Michele Morris, brought it from Pennsylvania to Vermont 20 years ago. Morris currently works at the director of communications at the Chittenden Solid Waste District.