Girls on the Run 12.27 Enterprise

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COLUMBIA - Girls on the Run just wrapped up it's sixth year enhancing the hearts, minds, and health of young girls in mid-Missouri. 

Cheryl Unterschutz is the executive director of Heart of Missouri Girls on the Run. She is a mother, an advocate for young girls, and forever a champion of the program. 

"This has been an exciting season for our girls. We had a record breaking year, ending the season with 283 girls, which was amazing," Unterschutz said. 

Heart of Missouri Girls on the Run started about six years ago. The organization is made up of two programs that provide programming for young girls at the elementary and middle school level. 

Girls on the Run is the program for 3rd through 5th graders.

"The girls talk about team spirit, personal strengths and appreciating other people but they also run, do exercises, and train for our 5k," Unterschutz said.

"It's really about teaching the girls about community and that they are a part of something so much bigger than themselves."

Heart and Sole is the program designed specifically for middle school girls. It takes a more in depth approach to helping young girls through the challenges of growing up. 

"It's really about that introspective time when girls reach middle school and they are really trying to figure out 'Who am I as a person?'," Unterschutz said. 

"The lessons that the girls work through are focused on each piece of who they are and how they are integrated together to make the whole person."

Lulit Mulugeta is nine years old and she's a member of Girl's on the Run. She said her favorite part of the program is the days she gets to help people.

"I liked the part where we were doing our projects for the refugees," Mulugeta said. 

"We made flags representing the countries they've come from and we wrote messages of comfort on the inside."

She said because of Girls on the Run, she's learned a lot about what her role is in her community.

"There's a lot of people out there that don't get the same chances that we do and sometimes we can take things for granted," Mulugeta said. 

"So it's actually a very sweet thing that we're doing."

For Unterschutz, the central goal of the program is to empower young girls to be proud of being just that, girls. 

"The empowerment piece of our program is probably the most important piece," Unterschutz said. 

"It's really about growing leadership skills in our girls and teaching them about being excited to be girls."

While Girls on the Run and it's programming won't start up again until January, Unterschutz said she's excited about what comes next, the possibility for new programs, and the chance to take on new fears.

"It's that fear that we have of failing that sometimes keeps up from even trying," Unterschutz said.

"We plan to turn our middle schoolers into coaches so that our program keeps on giving."