Student Voices: Why Teens Run DC?
Student Impact Stories:
Coach Hannah, Cardozo Middle School
Bobby is an inquisitive and outspoken 6th grader at Cardozo Middle School. When I first met him, I approached him as he was quietly sitting alone at lunch. Immediately after I sat down, he started to ask questions about Teens Run and how he could get involved. Bobby was the pillar of commitment to Teens Run DC. He never missed a practice and recruited some of his classmates to join the team. Running was something that Bobby had never really done outside of PE class. As the months went by, Bobby exemplified the core value of effort. He set a goal for himself to try to do one more lap than the week before. His running improved immensely. More importantly, he built relationships with the other boys on the team. He started sitting with the other TRDC team members at lunch. One of the 7th grade boys, Sam seemed to take on an “older brother” attitude with Bobby. Sometimes during free time after laps, Sam would show Bobby the best way to throw and catch a football. I could see firsthand Bobby’s confidence grow, both in his athletic ability and from his growing friendships with the other boys on the team. Bobby’s commitment to TRDC extended beyond the school day at Cardozo. He attended Oaktoberfest, Jingle All the Way 5K and 2 Parkruns. Bobby also encouraged his older brother, a past participant in TRDC, to join for some of the Saturday races. Bobby is a valued member of the TRDC community and he plans to continue with Teens Run DC next year at Cardozo. I hope to see him take on a leadership role within the team with his growing self-confidence.
Johnny is a warm-hearted and energetic 6th grader at Cardozo Middle School. Johnny joined the team on the insistence of his fellow 6th grader Tom. From the start, Johnny always brought a positive and enthusiastic attitude to practice. Johnny exemplified the core values of ownership and community. After a couple months of attending after school practices, Johnny expressed interest in going to Saturday practices. I would meet Johnny at the Columbia Heights metro and travel to Saturday practices or races together. At Saturday, Johnny always had a smile on his face and put in his best effort. He showed ownership of his runs and his improvement in his endurance was noticeable and impressive. At the Jingle All the Way 5k I had the opportunity to run with him. I was coming off an injury and this was one of the first runs back. It was a challenge for me to keep up with him and I was a couple of steps behind Johnny the entire race, likely slowing him down. As we came to an aid station, Johnny slowed with a water in hand and handed it to me. This was a small gesture, but demonstrates his kind heart and focus on community. His running improvement was impressive- each race he beat his PR from the previous race. Johnny continues to participate in TRDC summer programming and plans to participate again next year at Cardozo. We can’t wait to see the improvements he continues to make in both running and as a person and will always look forward to seeing his smile at practice.
Coach Shakita, Kelly Miller Middle School
I met Leo on my very first day at Kelly Miller Middle School; he was sitting in the lunch room, alone, pretty quiet when I sat down next to him to talk to him about Teens Run DC. During our first conversation, I immediately noticed Leo was very shy, nervous, and a little reserved; he spoke in a very low, soft tone; he covered his face when he talked, and he seemed adamant about keeping his hood on at all times. After much conversation concerning TRDC and what we would be doing during Lunch Club and afterschool, Leo said that he would attend and give it a try.
As the year progressed, Leo attended a number of After School Programs and all of the Lunch Clubs. Along with other students in his grade, we discussed a number of topics like school, bullying, present and future goals, being confident, and being accountable. Throughout these conversations and activities, I noticed Leo starting to speak up more about his thoughts and beliefs. He became more comfortable communicating his opinions with his peers without feeling humiliated or judged. I noticed Leo bring in new students and assist them with becoming more comfortable in a the Teens Run DC setting as well. For example, Leo invited a new student named Mark; during lunch club I asked Mark how he felt about bullying and bullies; Mark began to talk but stopped suddenly stating he did not want to share. Instead of forcing him to share, I allowed his peers to encourage him to share his thoughts. Out of all encouraging comments, Leo's stuck out to me the most. Leo explained to Mark, that the room we were currently in was a safe space, and no one would pick on him or bully him about anything while he was there. This conversation alone, showed me that Leo had seen some of himself in Mark and felt that Mark could have the same trust, confidence, and safety that Leo had acquired from attending lunch clubs.
After participating in more and more activities related to building confidence, learning various ways to connect with peers through similarities, and the importance of having a safe space; Leo had went from silently participating in activities, to fully participating, to encouraging others to participate. Leo went from sitting quietly alone in the cafeteria for lunch to sitting with his classmates and his TRDC peers, enjoying light conversations and silly jokes. Leo went from being bullied to standing up for himself in a way that was nonviolent and respected by his peers. Lea went from taking direction from me to giving me directions as it related to our sessions together. Leo is now heading to high school and I am proud to say he is fully prepared; physically and mentally. I believe TRDC assisted Leo with learning how to find his voice and become more confident in himself.
Coach Michelle, CHEC
Mary was a girl who mostly kept to herself when I first met her. She signed up for my lunch club, but I could tell it was mostly because her friends did it first. As the months wore on, I continued to try to bring Mary into the conversations and discussions, but she usually wouldn't say more than a couple words or sentences. Then there was a day where her two friends were absent from Lunch Club, but she still showed up. Being just the two of us, I started asking questions (how's the school day been so far; how was your weekend; what's your favorite color; etc) and we got to know each other a bit better. Next thing I know, she's opened up like a book. She started actively engaging in the lunch club conversations and banter; she started giving me hugs whenever she saw me in the hallways; and she started opening up about her life outside of school. I believe it was less about the content of the lunch clubs that got her more comfortable and engaging and more that she realized that, to me, she wasn't just her friends' friend. The one-on-one time we spent chatting helped her realize that I was there for her just as much as I was for the others and she wasn't just a girl in the background. She grew much more confident with herself and, towards the end of the year, even started attending some of my after school running practices.