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Helping Teens Through the Starting Line Scholarship

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

When 17-year-old Tre found out his mom had signed him up for Still I Run’s Starting Line Scholarship program, he wasn’t exactly thrilled, saying “I had no option but to get through it.” Now, if you ask Tre about Still I Run he can barely contain the excitement in his voice. But before we get into Tre’s story and his experience in the program, let’s rewind a little bit.

For the past two years, Still I Run has partnered up with the Pierce County Washington Juvenile Court System to offer a youth co-hort of the Starting Line Scholarship. It works like this: The court system identifies five at-risk teens in the system, and reaches out to their parents, asking them if they’d like to sign their child up. Once a child is signed up and admitted to the Starting Line Scholarship they’re then paired up with two mentors from Juvenile Court. Still I Run then provides all the kids with running shoes, a Still I Run shirt, shorts, socks, and some Still I Run swag, a training program, a coach, and entry into a 5K race. Then, over the course of 10 weeks, the kids and mentors follow the training program created just for them as they work towards their 5K.

This year’s program started June 20 and lasted through August 27, the day of their race, the Chase the Rainbow 5K. For those 10 weeks, on Tuesday, the five teens and their mentors would all get together for a group run in the morning, and then they’d all log on to a Zoom chat later in the evening where Still I Run coach Ashley Larson would go over the week’s training and answer any running related questions. The Zoom chat then concluded with Still I Run founder and executive director, Sasha Wolff, going through a mental health-related topic. Sometimes guest speakers from the Still I Run community would also join to share their personal journey with mental illness.

One Teen’s Experience

Once this year’s Starting Line Scholarship program concluded, Tre was the first person to go to his mentor and ask if he could participate again next year. When asked why he was so eager to participate, he said, “This program turned into something I enjoyed. I like being around people, and I haven’t been to school in two years because my mom kicked me out of the house for two years. I was homeless during that time and isolated. So this program was super helpful in connecting me with others again,” remarked Tre.

“The program got a lot of us [teens] out of the house and we became friends with everyone in the program. I loved the whole thing, the practice, the Zoom meetings. It was all amazing.” He even shares that getting to spend time with the mentors, some of whom are probation officers, was great. It helped expand his circle beyond the same group he always associates with.

When asked how the program changed him, you can hear the smile in his voice as he says “The ability to get out there no matter what. Now I know I can accomplish at least three miles. Previously, I had the limiting belief that I only had one mile in me.”

His time in the program wasn’t without difficulties though. At the start of program Tre was back living with his mom, but things weren’t going well between the two of them. He said his mom was falling in with the wrong crowd again and he needed to move out in order to stay clean from drugs himself. So for a few weeks, Tre wasn’t able to participate in the program or keep up with his training, something he was upset about. Finally, he was able to move in with his grandmother in Tacoma, a choice that’s benefited him greatly. After that move, he didn’t miss a day of training, group runs, or Zoom chats with Still I Run.

Continuing the Run

He says he's in a much better place now thanks to his move to his grandma’s house and because of his newfound love of running. “I know it’s benefited my mental health. The move to Tacoma and running. Those things have put me in a spot where I’m less likely to relapse into some bad things.” Tre proudly adds that he’s been sober for six months now. He’s been smoking a lot less and running a lot more. Now the teen is looking forward to next summer when he can participate in the program again, but in the meantime he looks to staying out of trouble, running another race, and adding a bit more distance to his everyday runs.


By Sasha Wolff

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