David is an 18-year-old young man from El Salvador, the next to youngest of 12 children. When he first came to this country at age 11, he along with five of his brothers and sisters and his mother and father, lived in a one-room basement apartment in DC. “We had to sleep sometimes on the floor. We got along with each other because we had to. Sometimes we’d fight; and sometimes we didn’t. It was the eight of us for five years. Then people started moving out.”
Moving from El Salvador to the U.S. was difficult for David. After 11 years, it remains so. David says in El Salvador, his life was more peaceful. He lived on a farm. People got along. In this country, he has a harder time fitting in. David’s dad works as a janitor in the building where he lives. His mother stays at home and cooks. He has an older brother Joel who works in a supermarket and is studying law in college. Joel moved out of the apartment a couple of months ago because his wife is having a baby. David had been close to his brother and looked up to him; but Joel’s very busy now and doesn’t have much time. David has another older brother who struggles with his life. Nobody knows where he lives. David worries about him.
David is in the eleventh grade at Wilson High School where academics have generally been difficult for him. He doesn’t have the best study habits; but he’s working on it. Sometimes it’s difficult to focus because he’s got a lot on his mind. He participates in JROTC where he was recently promoted to second lieutenant and works a part time job on weekends and sometimes after school.
Despite these difficulties, David stepped out of his comfort zone and joined Teens runDC this fall. Where he used to hate running, he now says it’s fun. “Running for me is like meditation. As I run, I think how I can improve myself. I never ran long distance before. My brother Joel used to run with me when I was small. He used to take me out. I liked that.” When not practicing with the team, David now runs on his own most days. He says “running is therapy for me; it helps me to plan out my life.”
David has participated in three races this year: the Great Pumpkin 5K in Reston; the MCM 10K in DC; and the Somerset Back to School Classic 8K in Chevy Chase. He finished 1st in the Somerset Classic 8K and 3rd in his age group in the Great Pumpkin 5K. During these races, David has been running 6:37 to 6:54 minute miles…an extremely impressive feat for a high school distance runner with little experience; especially for one who works 10 to 20 hours a week, is a second lieutenant in JROTC and is still working through a major culture transition.
Several weeks ago, David asked me to speak to his boss so that he might have permission to come later to work on Saturdays and train with our group. Outside of practice, he’s talked to me of his difficulties, seeking advice.
For this young man, participation in Teens runDC will make a difference to his life — not just in the training, discipline and inevitable victories, but in connecting with a more positive and embracing peer group and in developing relationships with adults who see him aside from his difficulties for the good kid that he is.