Senior Story: Resiliency and Courage

“Good morning Vipers! If you are interested in joining the 2016-2017 Students Run LA (SRLA) Team please report to the library after school” I heard as I rushed to homeroom. I had never heard of SRLA. I asked a couple of friends what it was and they explained to me that SRLA was a program that helped students train for the marathon and run it for free.

The marathon? No way. “I could barely run a mile” I said playfully. Around lunch time however, I really started to think about it. 26.2 miles. It seemed impossible. I had never, ever ran more than the required mile for P.E, and even then, I was huffing and puffing to finish. But what can I say? I loved challenges.

As soon as the dismissal bell rang at 3:08, I was in the library by 3:09. I sat through the short meeting where my leader basically went over the practice days and that our spots were limited. Spots would only be given out to those who attend practice and try their best. That same day, I went out and bought running shoes. I had made up my mind, I was going to run the LA Marathon.

Slowly but surely, with tons of support and practice, I crossed that finish line on March 19, 2017. I finished my first marathon. My eyes were teeming with tears of joy, relief, pain, and exhaustion. Without SRLA, I would not have been able to do this. I was given the opportunity to accomplish something so big. Something that not many people can say they did! I was able to accomplish this 3 consecutive times! All thanks to the staff and supporters of SRLA.

Although I am just one student of the thousands who participate in SRLA, if I had the opportunity to speak to every single person who sets up the races, coordinates them, pays for cups of water, cleans up after thousands of messy tired kids, and works their hardest to make these experiences safe and memorable, I would thank each and every one of them a billion times. Every single person in the SRLA team has granted me the opportunity to prove to myself how strong I am. I would have never started running if Students Run LA had not given me such an opportunity.

I found myself while running. When life was not in my favor, every step I ran, every time my size 6 foot hit the pavement, I was reminded of a reason to keep on pushing forward. I felt like a new person. While running, all of life’s problems disappeared. I am so grateful that SRLA provided a safe space for me. Through this, I was able to grow more dedicated, resilient, confident and even make a few more friends along the way. Thank you SRLA, for giving me the courage to show the world what I am made of.

Yulissa is a 2019 SRLA Scholarship recipient and will be sure to use it as she attends California State University, Dominguez Hills this fall.

Yulissa is also one of five who have been selected to receive a $1,000 Honda Dream Scholarship Award. With the generous donation of a 2019 Honda CRV 2WD EX-L, American Honda established the Honda Dream Scholarship Program to create an enduring legacy to help SRLA students achieve their academic dreams for generations to come. In May, American Honda announced that it would double Yulissa’s Honda Dream Scholarship Award in recognition of Honda's 60th anniversary and partnership with SRLA. Congratulations, Yulissa!

To make a donation to support the next class of SRLA runners to help them work towards their goals like Yulissa did, please click here.

Christine Pajak