These students are running and have their eyes on the marathon.
By Mary O’KEEFE
Neighbors around Crescenta Valley may have noticed an increase in foot traffic lately. Rosemont Middle School students can be seen running after school and early on Saturday mornings in preparation for the Los Angeles Marathon.
The newly formed Rosemont PWR (Power Walking and Running) club has kids making a healthy choice to exercise, which includes hitting the pavement. Rosemont teacher Terry Parker has again stepped up to coach the students – hopefully all the way to the marathon finish line.
For years, Parker led a group of middle school, and some high school, kids to the marathon through the Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA) program. SRLA began in 1986 by a teacher from a high school in East L.A. The teacher, Harry Shabazian, had completed a marathon and felt it transform his life. He wanted to share that feeling with kids from seventh to 12th grade. Over the years the program grew and, though it was almost exclusively offered to kids within the L.A. Unified School District, Parker was one of the first teachers outside the L.A. district to sign up.
Parker continued coaching Rosemont SRLA until he could no longer run due to several knee operations. The program struggled to find mentors from either Crescenta Valley High School or Rosemont. Mentors must commit to hundreds of hours of service as well as running the races leading up to and including the marathon. As with most organizations, SRLA is struggling with its budget. The organization covered the cost of the races and supplied shoes for the runners. Unfortunately, Rosemont is no longer part of SRLA, in part due to the budget issues.
Parker decided that the benefits of the students running were too great to ignore. Although he can no longer run the marathon due to his knees, he can power walk the race. He got together with longtime SRLA coach Brad McDonald and the race is definitely on.
Rosemont PWR has added one other element to its program: they are following John Wooden’s “Pyramid for Success.”
Wooden is the legendary UCLA basketball coach who guided young players like Kareem Adbul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Wooden identified 25 behaviors he believed were necessary to achieve his idea of success, according to www.woodencourse.com.
One of Wooden’s principles – “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming” – is a philosophy and style of teaching that matches Parker’s. The Rosemont teacher has been able to get students who had never before put on running shoes to cross the finish line after running 26.2 miles.
“I know how important it is to these kids,” Parker said. “As far as I am concerned, every kid is at risk if we don’t take time with them.”
Jacob Magana, a 2012 CVHS graduate, is one of those kids whose life was changed after he crossed the finish line.
“I tried with SRLA when I was going to school in Los Angeles and just stopped. Then I tried in seventh grade and eighth grade. Then in ninth grade I tried again,” Magana said. “This time I did it. My best friend wouldn’t let me stop and I finished.”
He added that working for the marathon goal and then reaching it changed him.
“I felt I could do anything after that,” he said.
Because the program is no longer part of SRLA, the financial burden of the races leading up to the marathon and the actual marathon fees falls onto the parents. Parker does not want a kid to miss this opportunity because he or she cannot afford it. So far he has been able to get the some of the races to lower their entry fees, however there are still costs.
Parker understands that operating and taking part in this new club is not going to be easy, due to the time and financial commitments, but he feels strongly that it is an important task to undertake.
“You know, I went to my car after our first 5K [the CV Chamber 5K Run] and I just sat and watched the kids getting hugs and high fives from their parents and friends,” Parker said. “I know how they are feeling, their accomplishment and I just thought, ‘This is what I am supposed to be doing.’”
For more information or to donate to Rosemont PWR, contact Terry Parker at Rosemont Middle School at (818) 248-4224.