I kicked off 2016 launching a new blog series to bring more awareness to the nonprofits you donate to as part of the Small Change initiative. It’s been a great way to learn more about organizations that are changing lives, empowering our neighbors, and making our communities stronger.
My ask of everyone reading the Spotlights is to share them, get involved with the organization if you live in the area, or if you’re inspired by the work they do, consider donating a few dollars. Remember, Small Change results in BIG impact.
For my next Spotlight I caught up with Marsha Charney, Executive Director of Students Run LA (SRLA). For nearly 30 years, SRLA has been helping LA teens train for and complete the LA Marathon. For anyone who has taken on the challenge of a marathon knows there’s more to the story than crossing the finish line—it represents determination, grit, and steadfast resolve—and SRLA is instrumental in helping students succeed both in and out of their running shoes.
What does SRLA do?
For 27 years, Students Run LA (SRLA) has offered a free marathon-training program, mentoring at-risk youth in Greater Los Angeles. The mission of SRLA is to challenge students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring, and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.
What is your greatest need as an organization?
SRLA’s greatest need is raising the money needed each year to cover the costs of the program. With most students coming from low-income families, SRLA is steadfast in keeping its program free for all participants. Each SRLA student receives a training t-shirt, running shorts, training calendar, marathon uniform, transportation, race course support, post-race nutrition, and much more from SRLA.
Can you share a memorable impact story?
There are so many wonderful impact stories and our blog shares many of them as told by our students and alumni. Confidence, friendship, and strength are just a few of the words that continue to resonate with our teens. This year, we had a student who gained the confidence to come out as being transgendered and was the subject of a newspaper article and inspiring video. I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to read a selection of recent student blog posts:
What does success look like?
SRLA’s success is found in the positive changes students make in their lives. Annually, more than 95% of SRLA students who start the marathon complete it, and more than 95% of SRLA seniors who finish the marathon graduate from high school. This year, SRLA brought nearly 3,200 runners to the starting line of the marathon, and 99% of them completed the full 26.2-mile course!
After joining the elite group of marathon finishers, SRLA students know they can tackle any challenge. Their running success translates to the classroom: in June, more than 99% of SRLA seniors graduated high school, and 95% of them plan to attend college.
How can the community get involved with SRLA?
Community members can get involved with SRLA in many ways. During our training season, SRLA students participate in monthly community races of increasingly longer distances. These races begin with a 5K in September, and build to a 10K race in October, a 15K race in November, two half marathons in December and January, respectively, and an 18-Mile race in February. At all of the races, SRLA needs volunteers. In addition, SRLA invites community members to participate in these races to support the students in their training. SRLA usually produces three of these races and is always looking for community sponsors of the races, too.
We encourage the community to follow us on social media—we’re very active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Following us is a great way to learn about upcoming opportunities. Finally, SRLA welcomes other ways to connect with the community—have an idea? Let’s us know.
Anything else you’d like to share?
In recent years, SRLA has also established a companion program, SRLA Cares. SRLA Cares raises social, environmental, and community awareness through various community projects throughout the training season. The program provides an opportunity for the students to give back to their communities both large and small. Check out the projects SRLA did this past season.
Keeping with the theme of my blog, what’s your favorite local running spot?
Griffith Park is a great place to run and hike. In addition to iconic spots, including the Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, and Bronson Caves, the varied terrain makes it an excellent spot to get in some great workouts. Griffith Park also brings together the diverse cross-section of Los Angeles, from young to old and all backgrounds, to enjoy this great treasure.
If you’re interested in learning more about SRLA or getting involved, contact Rosny at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thank you to my friend, Paria, who donated $26 to SRLA—$1 for each mile—as part of running the LA Marathon, her first marathon. Where’s your next race or adventure? I encourage you to leave behind a little Small Change in your destination city. The organization you select may be the next Spotlight.