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The power of mentorship: why AmeriCorps member Steven chose to pay it forward

In 6th grade, I began training to run my first Los Angeles Marathon with Students Run Los Angeles. I had my doubts. I remember the first couple of practices I couldn’t make it to the end of a block without stopping to catch my breath. I constantly questioned whether I was capable of running 26.2 miles.

I was lucky enough to have my distance running coaches supporting me. They taught me that most of the time the hardest decisions in a long journey will always be taking the first step; that if you start something you need to finish it; that how you reach your end goal matters; that I should not run away from my problems, but instead confront them.

They instilled in me the idea that I am capable of mental and physical improvement. Coming from a community of low-income, first-generation immigrants families there weren’t many options available for me. A young brown male like myself was expected to drop out of school and join a gang. Despite this, I gained the motivation to earn a bachelors degree and I plan on continuing my journey through higher education by pursuing a masters of education.

Whereas twelve years ago it might have been difficult for me to run a mile, I have now run eight marathons, and hopefully, by the end of this year, I will be completing my ninth L.A. Marathon with City Year Los Angeles.

As much as I am proud of my own efforts to reach, I know so much of it is because I saw successful people who looked like me, spoke like me, and overcame struggles like my own. For me, that person was my coach. He was a consistent figure that always guided me with patience, sympathy, and wisdom. That person is Jonathan Lopez and he currently serves with City Year.

My relationship with Jonathan has put me in a position to pay it forward after graduating from college. He inspired me to invest my time and energy to serve the young students of color within my community because I firmly believe that education is the only viable path to right the wrongs in historically marginalized communities. I experienced the power of mentorship, so I want to be that supportive person for someone else.

My name is Steven Colin and I am proudly serving on the Associates Board at NOW Academy in Jonathan’s hometown of Koreatown.

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