PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A few afternoons a week, you might hear a chant coming outside a West Kensington school.
“Who are we?”
“What do we do?”
“How do we do it?”
Then you’ll see dozens of young people running near Julia de Burgos Elementary School. They call it Students Run Philly Style.
“The whole premise of Students Run Philly Style is give a young person a big goal. Aim for the marathon, and then give them the support, the mentor,” executive director Andy Kucer said. “Once they achieve that, all of the lessons that they’ve learned, all the adversity they’ve overcome, it clicks, and they begin to apply that to other parts of their life.”
The key: the volunteers running right at their sides.
“At first I didn’t think I could do it,” said 12-year-old De’Naiza Watson, “but then they always ran next to me and made me feel comfortable.”
Teacher Annemarie Draham is one of 400 volunteers known as running leaders.
“I see the kids get better. I develop relationships with the kids. It is the best volunteer thing I’ve done in my life, ever,” she said.
Danier Rodriguez, 13, said her running leader told her “I needed to find my own pace to get better. Now I see that I can improve myself.”
Eighth-grader Jadein Melendez is starting his third season. He remembers what it was like when he started as a sixth-grader.
“For starters, I was like really struggling. I couldn’t run, like, for nothing,” Jadein said. “But now since I’ve been practicing, practicing, I finally know how to run.”
Jadein has run an 8K and the Broad Street Run. He was joined by hundreds of other students from 60 schools participating in Students Run Philly Style.
“It was amazing,” Jadein said. “All you see is blue everywhere.”
Lauren Kobylarz, program director of Students Run Philly Style, said the organization couldn’t do this without all the volunteers who are devoted to running alongside the kids.
“They power our program,” she said. “I always like to say we are volunteer-powered.”
They’re giving students the energy to one day power themselves.
Students Run Philly Style is always looking for volunteers. You can contact them at https://www.studentsrunphilly.org/