By Ker’Shyra Myrick
With the initial desire to start a small running club at one of many after-school sites, Nora Hana had her mind set on 20 kids with a budget of $500.
But after being offered a community involvement grant for $20,000 Hana, the Expanded Learning Programs Coordinator in San Joaquin County in Northern California, knew the task of setting up a bigger running club would be daunting but well worth the outcome in the end.
“I did not want it to be just about running,” says Hana. “I kept thinking and searching for ways we could help kids with social and emotional learning and how they could go about navigating themselves through difficult situations.”
The Ready, Set, RUN! program turned out to be the answer Hana had been searching for.
Ready, Set, Run!, a program of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), prepares children ages 8-13 to run a 5k in 12 weeks. While they build endurance and stamina, the children also go through a character development curriculum that equips them with the goal-setting mentality needed to accomplish their running goals. Topics covered include enhancing confidence and self-esteem, respecting authority, dealing with peer pressure and fueling their bodies with proper nutrition.
“Running is difficult: a million people take on the goal of becoming a better runner, but everyone hates it,” says Hana. “I chose the Ready, Set, RUN! program because I felt it would help the kids create a healthy lifestyle and they could use it anywhere. The curriculum is very easy to use, turnkey and I really appreciate the fact that the kids could write reflection pieces in their journal so in the end they could look back and reflect on what they like and also what they need to work on.”
After Hana was able to get the program started at different schools, it took no time for the kids to take interest and get involved. The kids were motivated and transformations took place right before their very eyes.
“I remember one middle school student who had the hardest time fitting in,” says Hana. “When she first started in the program she was a little overweight and could not even run one mile. Now she is up to running seven miles. She has become very confident, and has said she would like to try out for the track and field team at her new high school. These are the transformations you like to see.”
PARENTS GETTING IN ON THE FUN, TOO
Not only have the kids transformed, many of the parents have taken on new roles as well: avid runners.
“Parents have been signing up to run with their kids in the races we have participated in,” Hana says. “Some parents have never run before, but they are making sacrifices to help motivate their kids.”
Participating in several runs throughout the year, a highlight for the kids is having the opportunity to run through the University of Pacific campus during a kick-off race in October known as the Tiger Dash. For many of the students, this is the first time they have stepped foot on a college campus.
With already 200 kids signed up for the program, the goal of getting 1,000 kids involved is in sight.
“I’m most proud of seeing the kids running, active and able to accomplish their goals,” says Hana. “I did not think the program would explode and take off like this. Looking back, I only wanted $500 for 20 kids and now we are bursting all over the place. It is amazing to see how the kids have evolved and come back to participate every year.”
With no plans of slowing down, Hana can’t wait to see what this season has in store.
“We love and appreciate the Ready, Set, RUN! program,” she says. “This is a hidden gem that not many people know about. It feels so good to see our kids accomplish something and feel good about it.”Running Goals Self-esteem Respect Peer Pressure Nutrition
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