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Learning to run, running to learn

WORTHINGTON -- It's a little about running, but mostly about empowering each other. Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade girls attending St. Mary's School are being offered a new program called Girls on the Run (GOTR). GOTR is a non-profit organizatio...

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Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - It’s a little about running, but mostly about empowering each other.

Third-, fourth- and fifth-grade girls attending St. Mary’s School are being offered a new program called Girls on the Run (GOTR).
GOTR is a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to teaching young girls they have limitless potential and can pursue their dreams.
Fifteen girls make up the team that meets twice a week to learn life skills using interactive lessons and running games. The 20-lesson curriculum is taught by trained volunteer coaches Julie Gerber, Theresa Steve, Bethani Fellows, Jessica Riley and Shelly Spartz, all of Worthington.
“I hope they learn to be a community of young girls that help each other,” Steve said. “Also, I hope they learn to foster some of that healthy lifestyle and healthy decision-making that they are learning in this class into their daily life.”
Spartz believes the GOTR program is an important learning tool for young girls.
“It talks about many different situations and how to handle it if someone is bullying them or how to eat healthy and keep active,” Spartz said. “It teaches them to talk good about themselves, with no negative-self talk and things like that. It’s a really, really good program.”
It is the ninth week of the 10-week program, and the girls are nearly finished training for a 5K that will take place Sunday in Sioux Falls, S.D.

GOTR is being sponsored by EmBe, a community partner based out of Sioux Falls. EmBe offers affordable programs and services throughout numerous communities.
In a press release, EmBe stated that “running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness and build confidence through accomplishment. … At each season’s conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete a 5K running event, which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The result - making the seemingly impossible possible, and teaching girls that they can.”
Gerber said it’s great to see the girls learning and making progress weekly.
“When I first started teaching, I thought it was mostly about them learning to run, but it’s about self- esteem, bullying and being kind to one another,” Gerber said. “It’s such a great program, and I think that every one of the girls who have done it have really benefited from it. Some days they run a little bit farther, and they are also being taught valuable lessons.”

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