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Updated: Mar 8, 2023

When Steve Hill was asked to become part of the partnership between Still I Run and his employer, the Pierce County Juvenile Court System, there was no hesitation.

“My answer was yes right away,” he said. “I strongly believe in giving tools to help young people succeed, and this program appeared to meet that need. Plus, I wanted to get back into running as a way to relieve stress and have fun myself, so I saw this as a win-win scenario.”

That was two years ago now, and Hill liked being part of the 2021 program so much, he signed up again for the 2022 cohort. He’s been part of the Juvenile Court System for almost three decades, and he has seen what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to changing the lives of young people.

Starting that Running Journey:

Running, he said, makes a difference, but he admits with a chuckle that the young people who become part of the Still I Run program don’t always immediately understand the life-changing potential of a simple run.

“At first, they were not motivated,” he said of the teens he was matched with to be their mentor. “They really did not have a long-distance running background. But toward the end of the program, and at the race, they were more and more excited.”

That’s the whole idea behind the partnership and the Still I Run Starting Line Scholarship Program.

The normal Starting Line Scholarship program is year-round with applicants accepted on a quarterly basis and given shoes, running clothes, Still I Run swag, a coach, a 10-12 week training plan and entry into a 5K or 10K.

“The idea is we help that person overcome any barriers they may have when it comes to running for mental health,” said Still I Run founder and president Sasha Wolff.

In the partnership with the Pierce County Juvenile Court System, which Wolff hopes to expand in the future to other juvenile court systems, the court system identifies five teens they think would benefit from the Still I Run program and also finds a mentor who works at the court to pair up with the teen.

Each teen got all of the same gear as a participant in the regular Starting Line Scholarship program and a coach provided one plan for a 5K that the mentors and teens would run together (the Pierce County participants all ran the Chase the Rainbow 5K).

Making the Connection:

At the beginning of each week of the Starting Line Scholarship Program with Pierce County, Ashley Larson, the team coach, would send out what training would look like for that week.

Each Tuesday, the mentors would pick up the teens, and they’d all do the group run together that was part of that week’s training plan.

Later that day, Larson, Wolff, the teens, and the mentors would all meet via Zoom to talk about and answer any questions about training, go over some mental health education and/or share an inspirational video.

“The purpose of the Zoom meetings was to connect Still I Run with the teens and make the connection between running and mental health,” Wolff said. “And occasionally, we’d have some guest speakers join us to talk to the kids about how running for mental health has helped them.”

Miles and Miles of Memories:

Steve Hill said both the weekly run and the time together on Zoom were invaluable experiences for his mentees.

“The debriefs afterwards were done well with education and good questions about mental health and running,” he said. “I think a program like this shows youth more opportunities that are out there.”

He also liked the group run approach in 2022.

“In 2021, we met separately for a run at least once a week, and this was hard to coordinate,” he said. “In 2022, we had all the youth meet at the same location, the area of where the final run race was going to be. I think this consistency helped the youth bond to each other and made it easier on the Probation staff.”

And, he added, the runs were good for his mental health too.

“A lot of my job consists of meetings, paperwork and problem solving,” he said with a smile. “I like that I was able to get out there and just enjoy running and interacting with the youth to show them a fun activity they can do.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from the Starting Line Scholarship, we invite you to check it out at our website here! Applications are selected on a rolling basis!

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