Students Run LA will have more than 2,800 students running in the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on Feb. 14. After six months of training, this Valentine’s Day run becomes a symbol of accomplishment for many students who have learned to love themselves by recognizing the power within.
- “I will never give up on myself again.” Gizelle Pompa, 11th Grade
- “I realized I serve as my only obstacle in achieving greatness.” Luke Rodriguez, 12th Grade
- “I’m no longer afraid to be open about who I am.” Lyptis Rubalcava, 11th Grade
- “SRLA gave me a community to not only be part of, but to lead.” Racine Camara, 10th Grade
- “With every breath I take… my asthma is a challenge that only makes me more determined to go the distance.” Joaquin Garcia, 7th grade
These motivational words come from students inspired by a program that has created a community of can-do leaders in 174 public schools throughout the Los Angeles area. Students Run LA is a nonprofit that mentors at-risk youth in middle and high school who train alongside 500 volunteer leaders for the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.
“Last year, 99 percent of the students who started the marathon finished it, and they carried their success in the classroom with 99 percent of our seniors graduating high school!” said Students Run LA Co-Founder and Executive Director Marsha Charney. “We see that same spirit of accomplishment in this year’s runners, and look forward to cheering them on as they cross the finish line.”
Each student has a powerful story of transferring the lessons from training to overcoming a struggle in his or her life, whether circumstantial, physical or emotional. Student runners named below are just a few who are proud to share their personal stories.
Junior, Aspire Ollin University Preparatory Academy (Huntington Park)
Gizelle Pompa considers herself a comeback kid. She joined the team two years ago and dropped out after completing the half marathon. Convinced she could go no further, she gave up. “I will never give up on myself again, and I hope that when I complete this marathon it’ll send a message to others to never give up,” said Pompa.
Pompa is an SRLA team captain actively participating in the SRLA Cares projects giving back through community service projects. Part of the reason she rejoined is because she realized her ability to run was a privilege so many with disabilities don’t have, and one that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
7th Grader, Eagle Rock Middle School (Eagle Rock)
Joaquin is excited to run his first Marathon with SRLA, following in the footsteps of his older sister. He is also continuing a running tradition in his family. His parents, Fernando and Andrea Garcia, met running on the Eagle Rock High School track team. This was a moment he never thought would happen because he has asthma.
He joined SRLA this year with hesitation, but after guidance from team leaders learned how to manage his difficulty breathing with long-distance running. “I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it, but now I believe I can and I know if I can cross that finish line then I can accomplish anything,” said Garcia. His parents are so proud of their son’s perseverance that they too have decided to run the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon for the first time, and plan to encourage him along the way.
Sophomore, Dorsey High School (Los Angeles)
This is Racine’s second year with SRLA, and this year he was elected captain of his team. It’s unusual for a sophomore on a team with seniors to get the captain nod, but his teammates were impressed by his leadership on and off the track. “It’s important to me that everyone feels supported, a lesson I learned from the encouragement I received when training with SRLA,” says Camara.
Racine moved to Los Angeles from a small village in Senegal when he was 12 years old. Living in L.A. has been very different for him not only because he had to learn a new language (he had spoken mostly French before), but because he had to learn a new way of life. While Racine has had much support in his school and while training, he’s shared concern about the rhetoric about his Muslim faith on the campaign trail. He hopes that his support and respect for others becomes an example for others to follow.
Junior at Banning High School (Wilmington)
Lyptis joined Students Run LA this year while struggling with a personal secret. Born as a girl, Lyptis identifies as a boy. Over the course of the season, he gained confidence after finding new friends on the SRLA team who supported him. Hearing cheers at finish lines, and support during training, gave him the confidence to come out as transgender to his SRLA friends and teachers.
He says with SRLA being a gender-neutral activity, it became the perfect environment for him to gain confidence. “I was really nervous at first and thought no one would accept me, but I was wrong,” Rubalcava explained. “Everyone has been really supportive, and it turns out my gender isn’t an issue at all. When I’m running, all people care about is that I do my best.”
While preparing for the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon, students in the program participate in five community races that involve community service projects. This year, SRLA students collected more than $3,000 in pennies for United Cerebral Palsy, 4,000 cans of food and over a ton of pasta for local food banks, and 1,000 toys for elementary school students. “It’s not enough to do the best you can for yourself,” says Charney. “We believe it’s important to help others not only to learn compassion, but to reinforce appreciation for what we have.”
SRLA’s program is free for all students thanks to the generous support of private donors including foundations, corporations and individuals. SRLA provides all the students with training shirts, shoes, entry fees, transportation and more to support their training and encourage their success.