Students Run LA (SRLA) is an innovative and successful youth empowerment program that helps middle and high school students improve their health and stay in school, graduate high school, and continue on to college or university. Established in 1989, SRLA has used the process of training these students to complete the LA Marathon to teach them how to set and achieve goals. While running is the core activity of the program, students participating in SRLA learn that discipline and hard work lead to success at both the Marathon and in life. The students become physically active, on average, ten hours a week, for the 26 weeks leading up to the Marathon, and learn to fuel their bodies for long-distance running. Most of the students in SRLA are from difficult circumstances, including lack of appropriate adults in their lives, crime and drugs in their communities, overcrowded schools, and poverty. Yet, through their experience in SRLA, they overcome these difficulties and accomplish something tremendous, something that the outside world recognizes as setting them apart, something that gives them confidence to overcome the obstacles that they face and create a better future.
The annual results are both staggering and a tradition: More than 95% of the SRLA students who start the Marathon complete it, and 95% of the seniors who complete the Marathon with SRLA graduate high school. In March 2014, 99% of 3,360 SRLA runners who attempted the Marathon completed it. In June 2014, 98% of the 729 SRLA seniors who completed the Marathon with SRLA graduated from high school, and most planned to attend college. Our students sum up SRLA’s benefits best:
“After joining SRLA I began to feel more confident about myself, because of my newfound discipline… (I)f I could run 4 marathons, I definitely could complete 4 years of academics at a university.”
The ongoing success of SRLA rests primarily on the efforts of the more than 500 volunteer teacher/leaders (the “SRLA Leaders”) who recruit and train with the students. They train before or after school and on the weekends, and slowly build up the mileage and duration of their runs. While the students and their Leaders run, they have a unique opportunity to talk: About training safely, eating healthily, and making appropriate life choices. The Leaders provide them with information on nutrition, fluids, pacing and resting, and most importantly, they listen to the students talk about the issues in their lives, and encourage them.