September 26, 2016
I’m sitting beside her in Streetfront’s classroom, with images of Lou Reed, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, John Coltrane, Mark Rothko and Patti Smith on the walls. I can’t help but get the feeling that she needs to unload some personal things.
As I start to ask her questions, her eyes light up and she starts telling me her story. She can’t keep pace with the things she wants to get out. Stories of sadness and disappointment start to unfold. Tales of her feeling insecure and anxious at school, always doubting her abilities become a constant thread.
Trevor teaches in a totally different way. He makes learning fun, always entertaining us even though he is actually teaching us.”
Emily continued with her run progression, culminating with a Streetfront mainstay – the 18.7 km Deep Cove run. “I was so nervous before we left for Deep Cove. I had only been at Streetfront for a little over a month and now I was trying to run to Deep Cove. I was really scared crossing the Second Narrows Bridge. It’s so high. But we kept on running and at about 15 km we saw Barry with the bus. We ran over got some water and that really helped motivate me. The rest was easy.”
Stokes thought he’d quickly see Emily a few 100 metres ahead. When he resumed running, Emily was nowhere in sight.
September 16, 2016
Abdi Ahmed is an easy kid to like. You see his smile before you see anything else. Always happy and always inviting you into his life, Abdi is an amazing and resilient young man.
Abdi was born in war-torn Ethiopia. His family was able to flee the conflict and arrive in Canada in 2011. First arriving in a transition house for refugees and then moving out to Surrey. The family then relocated to Strathcona’s Raymur Projects, where so many Britannia families have started to build a bright and prosperous future for their families.
Abdi came to Streetfront at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. Abdi had struggled both academically and behaviourally in grade 8 and 9 at Britannia and was hoping to find a different school setting and a new start. He found that at Streetfront. As he said while I was talking to him over lunch on a Friday afternoon, “Streetfront offered me everything I wanted in a school. Trevor teaches in a different way. He makes it so easy to learn. The staff helps you with personal stuff. They don’t let you get away with anything. I was failing most of my classes. By the end of the school year I was getting B’s and a few A’s.”
Abdi quickly assumed a leadership role at Streetfront. He took this role very seriously, always modeling the behavior the younger students needed to see. Within a week, he became the defacto captain of Streetfront’s internationally recognized marathon team. Throughout the school year, regardless of the weather or the ailments that befall a long-distance runner, Abdi hammered the pavement, never wavering in his commitment. “I didn’t like the runs at the start but I wanted to prove that I could run 10 km every time. After a few weeks, I started to like the runs. Then I started to need the runs. If we ever missed a run, I’d ask Trevor if I could run on my own. I think I ran over 700 kms last year. I’m really proud of that.” Pretty amazing for a 16 year old kid whose only been in Canada for 5 years.
Abdi ran the Seattle and Vancouver Marathons last school year, plus the Scotiabank Half-Marathon in June 2016. The Seattle Marathon was special for Abdi because it took an amazing effort by Barry Skillin and Gord Howey to navigate the visas and identification requirements to get Abdi into the United States. It took over 4 hours to make it happen, but for a kid like Abdi, it was obviously worth it.
After Abdi’s great year at Streetfront, he felt confident enough to return to Britannia for grade 11. Trevor Stokes knew it was the right decision, “I think it was exactly what Abdi needed. After his year with Streetfront, his confidence was booming and he started to believe he had the skills to make it in the main school. Going back and showing everyone how much he’d grown, was the logical next step.”
Abdi plans on continuing to run with Streetfront and is training diligently to land a spot on their Street2Peak Patagonia Team, which will be heading to Chile in March 2017. “I never thought you could go to a school and have so many opportunities. Going to Chile, who would ever think a kid from here could go and do that? I think that’s pretty awesome.” Asking the staff at Streetfront about Abdi, its quick to find out that they think he’s pretty awesome as well.
By Eleanor Boyle, contributing writer
Cody Price comes across as quiet and a little shy, so you wouldn’t know to meet him that he competes in marathons and plays a leadership role in the running program at his school. But Cody is one of the impressive students at Streetfront, the alternative Vancouver high school program that supplements academic learning with demanding athletic pursuits.
Cody agreed to be interviewed for Meet the Runner, and chatted with me over sushi on Commercial Drive recently. It was almost a month before the start of the school year, but Cody was already in preparation and running regularly on his own. “I love track and love running,” Cody said. From a young age and through MacDonald elementary school in Grandview Woodland, Cody played a lot of sports including soccer, basketball and track. So he was identified as a good candidate for Streetfront, and started there two years ago.
The long-distance races started when Cody was just in Grade Eight, and joined the Streetfront group to travel south of the border for the annual Seattle Full and Half Marathon. It was his first time outside Canada, and there he was at the start-line surrounded by thousands of people all challenging themselves just like he was. “It was an amazing experience,” he said. “It was a blessing for me.”
Since then he has completed three full marathons and two halfs. He credits Streetfront and its staff who devote themselves to giving academic, athletic and personal guidance to young people having trouble in regular school. Referring to head teacher Trevor Stokes, along with Gord Howey and Barry Skillin, he calls them “outstanding.” They’ve “gotten my through a lot.” He’s now better able to cope with personal situations, and has become more social, enjoying meeting new people and hearing their stories. “The care that I get from that school is amazing.”
Running has helped him develop discipline. “’Cause you’re running and wanting to stop,” says Cody, “but Trevor’s there behind you. He’ll give you breaks, but will talk you through it. It’s an awesome experience.”
Knowing that some Streetfront students had never run before, and that marathons are long and difficult, I asked Cody whether they’re allowed to slow down and walk during races. “Yes, you can walk,” said Cody. “If you feel like you need to walk, there’s a reason, and that’s okay. All Trevor says is: Do not stop.” Once you’ve got forward momentum, do not slow down so much that you actually come to a standstill. Starting again will be too hard.
At Streetfront, Cody has also been developing leadership skills. It started when he noticed that Trevor was overly busy trying to assist runners during races and training. So Cody offered to help. Now, especially with new students, Cody keeps an eye on them. “I’m one of Trevor’s runners who, on a marathon or a regular run, will take a person and say, ‘Trevor, you don’t need to worry about him. I’ll make sure these guys are running with me. I’ll make sure they’re OK.’ I’ll be Trevor’s helper. So he can stay in the back with other people.”
Trevor emphasized this to me, in an email, saying: “Cody is my right hand man in terms of the running program. He understands the psychology of what a new runner is going through. He’s been there hundreds of times and knows exactly what that kid needs to hear or sometimes, more importantly, what they don’t want to hear. His willingness to sacrifice his own training for the benefit of other less experienced runners has always impressed me.”
Cody is also hiking in preparation for Streetfront’s next big mountain ascent — part of a bold and innovative program called Street2Peak — which will take them to Patagonia in South America next spring.
Outside school Cody likes to listen to music, especially to artists and songs with poetic lyrics. He lives with his mother, and says he has frequent contact with his father, as well as also having a mentor through Big Brothers. Cody likes to be an independent thinker, for example where social media is concerned. Though he made arrangements via text to meet me, he doesn’t like to spend too much time in the digital world. “I like personal connections,” he told me. “Not so much social media. I don’t have instagram or snapchat. I can’t just sit there, on a device that’s doing everything for me. I want to do stuff on my own.”
Cody is a key part of the team at Streetfront. When he has extra time or is bored during lunch break, he’ll suggest to a few friends that they go for another run. As Trevor says: “Cody quite often is my student spokesperson. Whether I ask or not, Cody always makes himself available to help. His generous and genuine appreciation for the running program and Streetfront always fills me with pride. Cody has faced so many obstacles in his life but doesn’t let those get him down. Instead, he shows up on time ready to do the work that is needed. He needs us and we need kids like him. That combination of dedication and commitment is what makes Cody such a wonderful kid.”
July 29, 2016 / By Eleanor Boyle, contributing writer
Please consider joining us for this great annual run. This year will be the first year that ALL monies raised comes to Streetfront. If you can’t make the run consider making a donation in support of our students and our Street2Peak Project.
It was a dark week for Britannia Secondary, considering the speculation of a possible closure but this Sunday the Streetfront Alternative Program decided to focus on what we do best, getting kids to find the strength and determination to show the world how great they really are.
Thanks to all 29 kids who once again demonstrated the greatness of youth. Thanks to all of the parents who showed their kids that they are worth getting up early on a Sunday to cheer on.
Who couldn’t love this job????????????
For our final camp trip of the year we headed over to Indian Arm to canoe the fjord for four days. We had great weather for most of the trip, lots of black flies in the Bishop Creek campsite, seen lots of wildlife, had the wind and tide in our favour and not so much other days, seen many waterfalls, had lots of fun and stored more good memories in our heads. Overall we covered 40+ km’s from our departure point in Deep Cove to Indian River at the end of the Arm.
A very pleasurable trip indeed…