Leader Spotlight: Ray Eason

Where to even begin in describing the contribution made to SRLA by First Sgt. Raymond Eason? Besides his duties to his students at Garfield High School, Raymond acts as a de facto photographer for the program. Regardless of the event, he can be counted upon to provide many excellent pictures to document the day. First Sgt. Eason is one of the more gifted and multitalented people among those leading students in the program. As you will read, he has the experience and skillset to mentor, advise and guide those students who cross his path day to day, and to inspire confidence and self-assurance in all he meets.

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 am an SRLA member at Garfield High School located in East Los Angeles, and I teach JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). I am the Senior Army Instructor for the Garfield High School Army JROTC and I have been a member of SRLA for approximately 18 years. While on active duty with the Los Angeles Army Recruiting Battalion, members of the battalion and I formed a team to run our first Los Angeles Marathon, with strong encouragement from Mr. Richard Schott, a longtime friend of my family. In later years, Richard would also become an SRLA leader. Coincidentally, at that time we both were Scout Leaders in a troop in which both of our sons were members. It was in March 1996 that I ran my first marathon. While running the marathon, I noticed a group of young students and adults wearing pink caps with accented pink uniforms. I was totally amazed at seeing such a large, disciplined group of students and leaders running as a team.

Q: Do you have a favorite training tip?

A: Be responsible for yourself, have the courage to do what may frighten you, and the discipline to obey yourself in spite of all odds. “Life is difficult,” reads the first sentence of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck; we must take on the many challenges of training and preparation for the marathon. Nothing worthwhile is easy, never will be. It doesn’t matter how many times you have run the marathon; it sets the stage for rigorous challenges that must be overcome. The victory’s finish line is just another step towards another step in life.

Q: What’s your favorite SRLA event?

A: My favorite event is the 18-miler run at Hansen Dam, a true test of preparation and endurance. It’s self-revealing about where you are as far as individual preparation to meet the challenge of finishing the LA Marathon. At that point, if you have prepared and followed a consistent training schedule, you’re only a mindset away from finishing the marathon. If you did not meet proper training standards to complete the 18-miler, then you may at that time have to make some type of battlefield adjustments in order to finish the marathon.

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

A: I feel that getting at-risk secondary students to experience goal setting and character development through the means of training and preparing for a marathon is a great vehicle and tool. In addition, adults sharing worldly experience and mentoring, in which they can also continue to grow, is priceless. The school door is always open to strengthen your mind and body.

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

A: Most people see me as the Retired Army First Sergeant and just an Instructor in the Army JROTC. I am a licensed Marriage Family Therapist and served 24 years in the Active Army. I am a father to two West Point graduates, both sons also Harvard Graduates (MBAs), and in addition, my oldest son attended Oxford. My oldest son works on Wall Street and the youngest in Silicon Valley – Google. Most importantly now, I am a grandfather to a grandson and granddaughter.

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

A: Always be present in the moment no matter what, show that you care, and be genuine. I have many mentoring moments. My message to young students is to have a goal: “Try and Apply.” Always try; it does not cost anything. With conviction give it your best shot, apply yourself, make it work and if it doesn’t work, ask for assistance. You may give out, but please do not give up…” Try and Apply. If not you, WHO? During the Hansen Dam 18-miler three years ago while running, I saw Alexandra on her second lap on the dam, crying and wailing. She stated she could not finish and wanted to quit and just give up. We both agreed our body and feet were hurting. I reiterated that we both must continue to try and apply ourselves, and we would make it to the finish line. I told her it’s only mind over matter and right now it does not matter what we’re feeling because we are going to finish. Yes, we both finished and were glorified in the end. Unfortunately, she did not finish the Marathon due to an injury after mile 8. But through her lifetime message to me via letters and personal contacts, she was very grateful for the life lessons learned through Students Run LA and myself. Alexandra emphasized the fact of never giving up and that someone was there for her in that moment when she wanted to quit; moreover, the fact that I did not let her quit, but instead helped her to keep trying and apply herself meant everything.

Q: Anything else you want to share?

A: A marathon is what it is; it requires preparation, training, and mentoring. It sounds simple, but ever so big, to the students as well as the adult leaders. By adding students into this equation and having them become members of Students Run LA, it helps them in becoming more responsible, and having the courage and discipline to proceed into life. The lessons are learned through training, time management, maintaining academic performance, health and nutrition, and consequences. WOW! What an amazing program for life.