When Paul Trapani talks about Students Run LA, it is obvious that the organization has a special place in his heart.
“It gives me satisfaction to know that I have made a difference in the lives of many who may not have had the opportunity,” said Trapani, co-founder of SRLA in 1989 with Eric Spears.
He talks about the opportunity for middle school and high school students in disadvantaged communities to feel comfortable with themselves and reach their potential through mentorship from what SRLAs Marathon Leaders volunteer teachers share a month-long journey that culminated in attending LA Marathon.
There are currently just under 3,000 students in SRLA from over 180 public schools in the greater Los Angeles area. Together with 500 marathon leaders, they will be on the streets of La Puente on Sunday for SRLA Strength 10K, the organization’s second competitive stage ahead of the March 20 marathon.
“It’s a character-revealing, character-building program that uses marathon training as a way to develop the qualities that make people good people,” Trapani said.
The public can sign up for Sunday’s event at https://runsignup.com/Race/CA/LaPuente/SRLABeachcomber10K. It also has a 5K and starts at. 7:30 on Main St. and La Puente Centrum. The income benefits SRLA.
Trapani, a retired social studies teacher from John R. Wooden High School – an after-school center in Reseda – said he was long ago influenced by East LA continuing high school teacher Harry Shabazian. He ran the LA Marathon in 1986 and then encouraged his students to run the next one.
“I read about Harry and his challenge to these students, and it was the inspiration for me to want to do this,” Trapani said.
He said about 90% of Marathon leaders are classroom teachers, while the rest come from law enforcement. He would make it clear that they are not there as part of a marathon training program, although the running of the event is what ultimately happens.
“Ultimately, our purpose is to develop character and reveal it,” Trapani said.
Speaking in proud tones, Trapani said that typically 99% of his student runners will finish the LA Marathon and that 95% of them finished high school. The guidance from Marathon Leaders plays a big role in that success.
“That’s the purpose of the program,” Trapani said. “Because the journey is not just an event. And the journey is something they share together and they train. This to me is the real value of the program, or much of it, is the relationships they build with these teachers that are more than just classroom-related; they are life-related. ”
After Sunday’s event, there will be a 15K in November, a half marathon in December, another half marathon in January, a 30K in February and then a marathon.
David Dorf is the marathon leader from Twin Lakes School in El Monte. His team of 7th and 8th grade students has 22 participants. He has been involved with SRLA for seven years.
Dorf said one would expect these students to be tired after all that running. Nix.
“The crazy thing is that after the season is over, these kids really miss … maybe not so much running 20 miles in a day, but they really miss the continuity, they really miss that family structure, because SRLA for them is really a other family, ”said Dorf.
One of his team members repeats that feeling.
“What I like best about being involved in Students Run LA is my team,” said Hayden Nguyen, an 8th grader at Twin Lakes. “Even though we have only trained for a month, I have started to consider them as family. We push each other past our boundaries and support each other all the way.
“Running in events or training in SRLA makes me feel confident in my ability to do everything as long as I feel like it.”
This is just the kind of organization that hits home with La Puente Mayor Charlie Klinakis.
“I have always attracted organizations like this because I have been in the City of Industry Sheriff’s Youth Activities League for 27 years and it is the same type of children that we have always tried to guide and go after and possibly. organization that does these things, of course I will try to help because I really believe that the younger generation, the younger children, we need to guide and work with to help them, ”said Klinakis.
SRLA most recently collaborated with La Puente on a running event in 2015.
Trapani’s goal is for these students to become everything they can be in life. Ironically, not only did Trapani teach at John R. Wooden High, he said the legendary UCLA basketball coach was his wife’s grandfather.
“When I thought of this as a program, I really looked a little bit at what Coach Wooden would do in terms of what his vision would be in terms of enabling students to experience success,” Trapani said. “My idea I borrowed from Coach is that success is peace of mind when I knew you were doing the best you can.”