It’s not often that a middle school student runs in a marathon, but 12 Ánimo Jefferson Charter Middle School Students upheld their school’s 10-year track record of competing in the LA Marathon through a partnership with Students Run LA, a nonprofit organization that encourages students to compete in the LA Marathon.
Ánimo Jefferson teachers Carl Finer and Thomas Lo lead the partnership between Ánimo Jefferson and Students Run LA. Both Finer and Lo have been longtime athletes: Finer found his love for running in high school, and Lo, who loves to swim, discovered running as an admirable extension to his service at Ánimo Jefferson during his third year at the middle school. Through their work, dozens of students have had the opportunity to complete the LA Marathon through months of group training.
“Through Students Run LA, you get to see students outside of the classroom, and build relationships with students as athletes,” Lo said. “Teaching is a different dynamic as a coach.”
At Ánimo Jefferson, Finer and Lo begin training with easy routes around the Ánimo Jefferson campus and the Historic South Central neighborhood, and then work with students to help them build endurance for longer courses. The Ánimo Jefferson Students Run LA Team has several routes that are named after landmarks the students pass as they run to and from the Ánimo Jefferson campus. “We have a USC route, our Staples Center, now Crypto.com Arena route, and our farthest route is the Barnsdall route, where we run all the way up Barnsdall Art Park [in East Hollywood],” Lo added.
Finer and Lo have both run in the LA Marathon several times, but each year they do it, they train a new set of students along their journey to build confidence and reveal potential. Eighth grade Ánimo Jefferson student Lindsey Garcia believes her time in Students Run LA has helped her to grow mentally and physically.
“I joined Students Run LA because I wanted to exercise more, get out the house more and have more motivation to do things, and also to challenge myself to see if I could do it and not give up midway,” Garcia said. “Running a marathon requires a lot of hard work, commitment, and determination. I wanted to see If i could handle that physically and mentally. In other words, I wanted to test myself.”
Eighth grade Ánimo Jefferson student Arely Tapia has had a similar rewarding experience in running through Students Run LA.
“Students Run LA has helped me become a more active, dedicated, and committed person,” Tapia said. “Running the LA Marathon was really exciting, but nerve-wracking at the same time. During the run, I enjoyed seeing all the new views around the city but it was also very tough and the last couple of miles really were hard to push through. Once I finished, however, I was really proud of myself and glad I didn't give up.”
Both students are incredibly thankful for the time and dedication that Finer and Lo have put into marathon training. “Mr. Lo and Mr. Finer encouraged us to keep going, and they helped us meet our goals, made practices fun, and gave us a reason to keep going,” Garcia said.
“I'm thankful to have them as our coaches, because there wouldn't be a Students Run LA program if it weren't for the both of them,” Tapia added.
End of a Season
While the LA Marathon season has come to an end, Finer and Lo remain reflective of the immense support they have received from Ánimo Jefferson.
“Everyone here gets involved in some way or even joins the team,” Finer said. “I feel like in any given year, half the staff is directly or indirectly involved in running—and about half the staff has run in at least one marathon. But we’ve seen so many teachers supporting our students on the course, and helping out some weekends. And a good chunk of teachers usually show up to the LA Marathon on marathon day to just support the kids as they run through the course. So, we definitely have a lot of support.”
“Our administrators are also really supportive because they view sports as important for our students,” Lo added. “They see it as a good program for our students, and they’ve supported us whichever way they could. They’ve secured buses, paid for entrance fees, and any way they can support.”
At Green Dot Public Schools California, our 19 schools offer extracurricular activities to help students grow into well-rounded individuals who are prepared for success in college, leadership, and life. Through partnerships such as that with Students Run LA, our students learn how to be dedicated, resilient, and self-supportive through a series of runs and practices. We look forward to helping more students reveal their potential through opportunities like Students Run LA.