Spotlight Non-profit: Helping at-risk teens with the first leg of life’s marathon

LatinaLista — Getting children involved in sports has been documented as being one good way to keep children motivated while in school and develop needed skills to be successful in both academics and life.

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But some kids, especially in high school, can be left out of sports due to the team size and the competitive nature for those spots. Where do these high school kids who have no extracurricular activity involvement end up?

Well, if they live in poverty and are considered at-risk, their chances of success are pretty dismal. One Los Angeles teacher discovered a simple way to motivate his at-risk high school students — train them to run a marathon.

In 1993, Students Run LA was born as a non-profit dedicated to a simple mission:

Challenge at-risk secondary students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of the Honda LA Marathon.

From that one teacher who started it all, the program has grown into over 500 teachers and 3,000 students from 170 schools and community organizations in the Los Angeles area.

In May 2009, there were 2,988 SRLA runners at the Los Angeles Marathon and 99% of them finished. In June 2009, 97% of the seniors who completed the Marathon with SRLA graduated from high school.

Former students of the program have gone on to college and successful careers. Because SRLA wants to see the students succeed academically too, SRLA also has a scholarship program where they award graduating seniors who participated in the marathon, and passed the state exit test, with a $500 scholarship paid directly to the college where the student has been accepted.

For many of the students, training for a marathon represents the first time that they have committed to a specific goal. By providing them an opportunity for incremental accomplishment and a supportive environment to help them on their way, SRLA gives the students the inspiration, excitement and encouragement to accomplish their goal.

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