This fall,  a group of civic-minded runners raised over $14,000 for City Year Philadelphia educational initiatives by participating in Run for City Year.  At this event, City Year supporters participated in the Philadelphia Marathon or Half Marathon on November 22, completing 26.2 or 13.1 miles, respectively. The physical accomplishment of covering these distances is no small feat, but pales in comparison to the academic struggle many of our students face. Corps members are often told that the service year is “not a sprint, but a marathon."  It is important to recognize that our students are all currently in their own “marathon” of sorts, with a finish line of high school graduation in the distance.  The marathon parallels the importance of City Year in a variety of ways.

Participants in the marathon and half marathon prepared in a range of different ways, and each reached the starting corral at differing levels of readiness.  Anthony Rodriguez, a Corps Member serving at Bethune Elementary School, prepared months in advance, running 5-6 days a week, totaling an average of 15-20 miles a week.  In contrast, CYP Civic Engagement Team Member, Thomas Orange admittedly did very little to prepare, while noting the pre-race “carbo-loading” (eating a ton of carbohydrates, like pasta to prepare for an endurance event) was a “scrumptious time.”  Light-hearted jokes aside, due to these varying levels of preparation, the same course was perceived with vastly different levels of difficulty.  Similarly, our students often enter the school year at different academic levels of achievement, with their own unique needs.  City Year’s approach of offering literacy and math tutoring, as well as other supports, allows us to better reach the needs of each unique student.

For many runners, mile nine of the course was the most difficult, a windy, uphill battle with very little spectator support.  In contrast, areas lined with excited spectators were looked forward to and appreciated by runners, reducing the perceived effort of the run.  Conor Richardson, a Team Leader at Grover Washington Middle School, was thankful for these “cheer zones,” which helped her complete the half marathon.  The importance of this support cannot be overlooked in City Year schools.  Corps members coach and lead students in improving their attendance and social-emotional skills, including taking responsibility for their actions and learning.  We are often their “cheerleaders,” believing in their ability to grow and succeed in school. As Thomas Orange noted, you should “never underestimate the effect of people cheering you on, it’s pretty powerful.”

Pictured: (L) Frances Brandt, CYP Alumni Board Member and CY Alumni '10-'11, '11-'12, and (R) Liz Strasbaugh, CYP Corporate Partnerships Manager, and CY Alumni '11-'12, '12-'13

Alex Friske and Katie Iobst, Team Leaders at Woodrow Wilson and E.W. Rhodes, ran the entirety of the half marathon together, calling it a “challenging and enjoyable time.” Most participants in Run for City Year noted that the event itself was not as bad as anticipated.  Once reaching the finish line, the struggle of the miles covered was replaced with a feeling of accomplishment.  These runners exemplify City Year’s national goal of addressing the drop-out crisis.  City Year aims to make completing education an accessible goal for students in high-need urban areas, so that more of them can reach their own “finish-line,” look back, and realize with City Year’s help, they made it!

Written by City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member, Kim Leonard. The work of Kim and her team at E.W. Rhodes K-8 is made possible by  Program Sponsor, Glenmede.

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