Leader Spotlight: Joe Mendoza


Joe Mendoza is one of the more recognizable members of Students Run LA, that is if you are flirting with that 15-16 minute pace out on the course! Joe, along with Eric Spears, serves as one of the infamous but ever so motivating “flagmen” near the back of the pack. In addition to that duty, Joe serves as one of the Coordinators for the overall SRLA program. During the upcoming season, Joe will be the point person moderating the bi-monthly Leader Meetings at the LA84 Foundation. And finally, it must be noted that nearest to his heart are his hometown pride and joy, the Chicago Cubs!

Q: Where are you a SRLA leader and what do you teach?   How many years have you been with SRLA and what brought you to us?

A: I teach World History and Law and Order at Banning High School in Wilmington. I have been in SRLA for 21 years. I became involved because my Principal, Mrs. Manyweather, forced me to do SRLA at the Continuation High School where I taught at the time. I had run cross-country in high school and, with a small school staff, I was the logical choice. During my first season I ran with only one runner. Then, I attended my first summer Leader Conference and after that I better understood what to do and how to do it. I built the program up, however the school was being shut down so I found a new school (Banning) near my home that was in desperate need of SRLA and I got a job there and brought the program with me. In the fall of 2005 I was asked to become a SRLA Coordinator to join forces with Harry, Paul and Eric to help with the planning and implementation of the program. I’m still at it.

Q: Do you have a favorite training tip?

A: Wear running shoes at all times. They support your back, neck, legs, and feet, and walking around with thin flip-flops is like anti-training.

 Q: What’s your favorite SRLA event?

A: My favorite event is the Holiday Half Marathon in Pomona in December. I enjoy the course, and from the point of view of staff, there is not a lot to do except run the race. I love the cold in the morning and the search for warmth. I love the fake snow that is provided. The course has some variety and the race goes by quickly. The kids love the swag. The parking lot is easy to get in and out of too. It is all good.

 Q: What’s the best thing about SRLA in your opinion?

A: Seeing the program help straighten out an otherwise wobbly kid.

 Q: What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about you? 

A: I likely have the biggest and best collection of Doctor Who memorabilia and autographs in Western North America.

 Q: Do you have a favorite teaching/mentoring moment you’d like to share?

A: I had a runner who had a lot of difficulties in life and SRLA was difficult for many reasons that I won’t share. Through the season it took the help of many students and, on marathon day, four teachers, but somehow this girl finished the race. I’d never felt so happy and successful in my professional life before or since. I was there at the finish line to see her finish. This was several years ago and I have lost touch with the student. I would be curious to find out, if possible, what effect SRLA had on her and on her life.

 Q: Anything else you want to share?  

Several things: Watch Doctor Who on Amazon Video; listen to the band My Morning Jacket if you never have; thank you to the Dodgers for pitching Clayton Kershaw in a clutch game thus allowing the Cubs to win the 2016 World Series; stop using paper and go 100% electronic; travel broadens the mind; try Trader Joe’s bagged Bool Kogi Korean Beef ribs – 3 minutes each side on the grill and you are ready to go; asparagus is the best vegetable, eat it often.