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Diana, a Class of 2018 graduate from Camino Nuevo High School, ran six Marathons with Students Run LA. Along the way she learned to reach out to unfold new discoveries, leading her to mentor 15 young girls. Diana is excited to attend the University of California, Davis, this fall.
As a child, my parents allowed me to play outside with the children who lived in the same building as me. We all had hopes and dreams of becoming teachers, doctors, or even astronauts. Years went by and our community started to have an increase in crime due to gang violence. Because of the danger outside, my parents stopped allowing me to play with my friends and dedicated their time to ensuring that I always attended school and performed well in my academics. I never knew what or how my friends were doing until I started middle school. That was when I found out that most of my childhood friends became gang members themselves while others got pregnant. I was told, by my neighbors and people outside my community, that I would most likely become like them. However, I refused to yield to their statement.
During my seventh grade year, my parents allowed me to go outside on my own because they knew I was in Students Run LA. They trusted my coaches in ensuring that I would be safe. I used running as the only outdoor activity because I was able to explore all of Los Angeles with the people who kept me safe. Being part of Students Run LA kept me very busy and out of danger. In addition, my coach, Ms. Viera, became more of a friend figure because she would give me advice when it came to growing up. She saw the fear I had because she knew I did not want to become like my childhood friends. She was the positive influence in my life that helped me realize that I wanted to become more than just a runner… I just wasn’t sure as to what exactly I wanted to be.
As I was ready to leave middle school, Ms. Viera shared with me her last piece of advice: to never fear to reach out because it might unfold new discoveries. I carried that advice with me as I rejoined Students Run LA every year. I reached out to my new teammates that led me to have new meaningful friendships. In addition, I reached out to a youth group from an organization called Para Los Ninos because of my family struggles. This non-profit organization offers family services along with elementary and middle school. Through this a new discovery was unfolded.
Because I was part of their youth group I was networked to one of their middle school. I was informed that a director from the school was amazed by my commitment in Students Run L.A and wanted me to become a mentor for 15 middle-school girls who were in a program called Girls on the Run. These girls were training for their very first 5K and he thought that I, as a marathoner, could guide them in accomplishing it. Without hesitation, I took this opportunity.
Through running with them I learned the stories of these young girls. I realized that they were no different than me. They resided in communities that were dangerous due to gang violence. Nevertheless, they all persisted and were able to complete their very first 5K race. After their accomplishment, I gained a sense that the youth have a true potential in setting their dreams and accomplishing them. I came to understand that the only thing youth need in their lives is the guidance that can motivate them in becoming what they aspire to be. These children can someday become teachers, doctors, or astronaut if they so aspire to be. The youth in our society is the future and I want to assure them that they can hold a change in their hands.
Diana is a 2018 SRLA Scholarship recipient. To make a donation to support future of Students Run LA like Diana as they work towards their goals, click here.