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In 1986, a continuation high school teacher, Harry Shabazian, in East Los Angeles finished the first LA Marathon and felt personally transformed by the experience. He then challenged his students, who were in trouble or headed for it, to train with him for the next LA Marathon and change their lives as well. These young people, labeled misfits and under-achievers, not only finished the LA Marathon the following year, but also finished high school and went to college and jobs.
Then in 1988, two other continuation high school teachers, Eric Spears and Paul Trapani, joined Harry, and the three teachers ran with their students. In 1989, Roberta Weintraub, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, saw what the teachers were doing as an effective and innovative dropout prevention after-school program for Los Angeles Unified School District students. She and her deputy, Marsha Charney, established the program in LAUSD.
That was a turning point for SRLA. On March 4, 1990, two dozen teachers from around the city joined the three co-founders, with students from their respective schools, and together, they all ran in the 5th LA Marathon.
In 1993, SRLA spun off from LAUSD and became an independent 501(c)(3) organization. Today, that one teacher and his handful of students have grown to more than 500 leaders and 3,200 students from 175 schools and community programs throughout the greater Los Angeles area. SRLA has successfully carried out the same teacher-led training program, to challenge at-risk secondary 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.