Emily and Trevor on Breakfast Television

October 7, 2016 Leave a comment

Congratulations to Streetfront student Emily Lloyd on representing herself, her classmates, her family, and Streetfront well while telling her story on Breakfast Television. Way to promote Streetfront and the Street2Peak Project!

Watch for yourself here


Meet the Runner: Sierra Sidwell

October 4, 2016 Leave a comment

October 3, 2016

Being a kid is tough. It always has been. Sierra Sidwell, a grade 10 student at the Streetfront Alternative Program knows all about that.

Sierra’s sitting behind the Streetfront portable, on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. The garden is starting to fade into its fall colours. The sunflowers are starting to droop and the tomato plants are drying up. She came to Streetfront half way through last school year. She was kicked out of her last school for skipping school and past suspensions. She had little interest in applying herself. She felt school for her was a lost cause, “I started waking up at 9, 10 maybe even noon. I didn’t care that I was skipping those classes. I wasn’t getting out of them anyways. I was so unhappy and unmotivated.  It was better for me not to be at school, even though I knew that wasn’t a good decision for my future.”

Sierra speaks about her dissatisfaction with that time in her life with such clarity and thoughtfulness. She tells a story of a young woman whose identity was slowly eroding from her. “I had to hide who I really was. The person I am wasn’t welcomed in my previous school. If I were to survive, I would have had to totally hide my personality. Eventually, I started hiding my personality even from myself. That’s when I knew I was getting into something really deep and I needed to make a big change,” Sierra explains as the sun starts to tilt towards the west.


Moving schools is a traumatic event in a teenager’s life. Life is so precious when you are a teenager. Every move seems magnified beyond belief. Things are so intense and personal. Sierra’s impending move to Streetfront was met with extreme trepidation. Like so many other students, Sierra thought going to an alternative program was a definite step down, “I thought an alternative program was either for really bad kids or kids who weren’t smart enough for regular high school. If I went to Streetfront, what were my friends going to think?”

Sierra attended Strathcona Elementary and a few Strath kids were attending Streetfront, so that first day was a bit softer than she expected. “I was totally nervous, but I thought that if I could just find those kids I already knew, maybe I’d fit in better,” Sierra comments. Things turned out better than she ever expected, “I never thought I’d be accepted so quickly. Literally, after the first couple of hours I felt like I could relax and actually be the person I am.” Her eyes are darting all over the place as she tells me more, “I didn’t have to plan on how I’d play my entire day out. Before, I had to think about every move and calculate this interaction and how I was going to talk to this person. At Streetfront, I knew I’d be accepted and appreciated for who I was.”

Sierra never expected the runs to become such an integral part of her life. “I can honestly say I never believed I would love running so much. At my old school I don’t think I did a single lap of our school run without stopping,” Sierra recalls. “I heard the other kids say how easy running gets and how much they get out of it, but I kind of thought that was bull. But once I finished my first 10 km (on her 1st run), something was different. It was hard but I was so proud of myself. I ran basically 10’s ever since and I love how the runs make me feel. I’m totally zenned out when I run, it’s just myself and my thoughts.”

Sierra credits the running program with giving her goals and aspirations that were never present in her life before. “The Vancouver Half-Marathon was my initial goal. I trained really hard but I was so nervous before the race. I got to the start line and started believing that I was in over my head. What got me through was that they kept telling me I was tough enough to do it and I trusted them,” reminisces Sierra. “Once I was on the course, I’ve never felt more in control.  At 2 km I knew I was going to finish. In some ways it was the easiest run I’ve ever had,” beams Sierra.

Sierra credits the drive and commitment she’s learned at Streetfront with changing other parts of her life, “I really started doing well in class. I think my final report card was almost all high B’s with some A’s. I also went out and got a job at Tacofino. I’ve been working there for 5 months now. I also attended every single Street2Peak training hike this summer. Sometimes I had to just stay awake all night just to make sure I never missed the hike.  I can’t believe I go to a school where if I do my part and work really hard, I get to go to Patagonia.  Who get’s to do that? If I was at my old school, I might’ve got to Science World,” laughs Sierra.

Sierra is adamant that she will follow Jesse Costucci-Phillips lead and become only the second Streetfront female student to run a full marathon. “There’s no way I’m not going to run the full in Seattle.  It’s a done deal.  I am more focused on that goal than anything I’ve ever done,” admits Sierra with a big, confident smile.

As you can tell, Sierra is an impressive kid. I believe that she will accomplish all of her goals.  As her story unfolds, I sit back and think, “As glad as she is that she found Streetfront, I’m pretty sure Streetfront is probably even more grateful she and others like her, came to their school.”


Meet the Runner : Emily Lloyd

September 27, 2016 Leave a comment

September 26, 2016

“My other teachers never really took the time to get to know me,” Emily Lloyd, a grade 10 student at the Streetfront Alternative Program told me after school on Friday. “They taught you but if you didn’t understand or get it, they moved on and just left me.  Streetfront’s  totally different. They take the time to always help. And not just school stuff but personal stuff and stuff with family. “
emilyEmily is a remarkable kid. Looking at her, you always get the impression she is about to tell you a very funny joke!

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.

“When I got to high school things started to really go bad,” she comments. “I never felt happy there. I was in a few classes I shouldn’t have been in and then, with my other courses, I couldn’t get the help I needed to understand the work. Because I wasn’t doing so well in school, I started to avoid those classes. Now I was skipping school and doing things that definitely weren’t making me feel very good about myself. I needed a change. My friend Sierra started attending Streetfront and all she could say was how awesome it was. She was attending 100% of the time, getting good grades and even running marathons!!! I couldn’t believe it. I begged my mom for a whole month, everyday pleading to let me go to Streetfront. She finally said yes and it’s been the best decision of my life.”
Emily joined Streetfront in April 2016 and within weeks her life started going in a positive direction.   “I fit in instantly. The kids and staff encouraged me and made me feel welcome.

Trevor teaches in a totally different way. He makes  learning fun, always entertaining us even though he is actually teaching us.”

Emily quickly adapted to the unique curriculum at Streetfront. “I used to play all kinds of sports but that had fallen off. Once I got to Streetfront, all those good memories and experiences I had had with sports, returned.” She wasn’t so sure about their vaunted running program, “At the start,  running was really hard. I was barely making the 5 k’s but I stuck with it. I then moved to 7’s and then 10’s. Trevor ran with me on my 10’s and he knew how to keep me motivated. He talked and talked and then before I knew what had happened, we were done.”

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.”

Emily was preparing for her real goal of running the BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon in early June. She was plagued with self-doubt early in the race. “I started panicking at 3 km. I was bawling and convincing myself I couldn’t do this. Trevor ran with me and kept telling me to breathe and relax. He convinced me that if I took control of my breathing, I’d be able to do this. He actually was pretty tough on me. He told me I had worked too hard to give up. He said that I’d have to face my classmates as one of only 2 kids to have never finished a race. He convinced me that trying was everything and failing was not an option.”  Emily fought through the inner demons and started to feel strong. “Trevor had to stay with another girl while she used the washroom. He told me to run ahead and never get off the course. He said he’d catch up with me in one or two kilometres .”

Stokes thought he’d quickly see Emily a few 100 metres ahead. When he resumed running, Emily was nowhere in sight.

He started panicking himself, “I stated texting Gord (Streetfront counsellor) and Sierra trying to see if they had heard from Emily. I was convinced something had happened. She either had dropped out, got off the course or was in need of medical attention.”  Stokes kept running for the next 14 km trying to track Emily down. When he hit the Burrard Bridge (2.3 km from the finish) he caught up to Emily. Stokes was in disbelief, “Emily was in absolute control. She was not concerned or anxious at all!!!  She was running with confidence.  In fact she was doing so well, she called her aunt and convinced her to skip out of work and join her mom at the finish line.”emily-mum
Emily describes the moment she crossed the finish line as the “best feeling in my life”. The Streetfront staff speak often of a photo Stokes took of Emily and her mom, “We’ve been doing this so long and for 8-10 years we’d cross the finish line and there wouldn’t be a single parent there celebrating with their kids. But that has started to change and the embrace captured between Emily and her mom was so pure, so tender. It was absolutely perfect and exactly what Emily needed in her life.”
Emily will finish her Grade 10 year with Streetfront and plans to run the Seattle Half in November and then take on the BMO Full in May 2017. That will finish off a remarkable year considering she’s dead set on being selected as one of the 15 students to go to Patagonia, Chile with the Street2Peak Project in March 2017.
“I don’t ever want to leave Streetfront. I’m trying to convince them to go to Grade 12,” Emily laughs. As our conversation ends it’s hard not to think she just might be able to convince them.

Meet the Runner : Abdi Ahmed

September 18, 2016 Leave a comment

September 162016

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_cropAbdi 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.

Meet the Runner : Cody Price

September 18, 2016 Leave a comment

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.

cody-1-photoThe 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.”

Meet the Runner : Harmony Satori

September 18, 2016 Leave a comment

July 292016  /  By Eleanor Boyle, contributing writer

Two years ago, teenager Harmony Satori was aimless, skipping school, doing drugs, and having trouble imagining a positive future for herself.  Then she found herself beginning her Grade 10 year at Streetfront, an alternative program at Britannia High School in Vancouver, that helps young people build skills and confidence through physical activities. 
Today, at 16, Harmony has run two half-marathons, is a straight-A student, and feels like a different person.  “I really went low for the first two years of high school,” she said in an interview.  “Some people still judge me on that.  But it’s not who I am anymore.”  
The story of Harmony is about a personal journey but it’s also about Streetfront, an ambitious alternative high school program.  Headed by a team including teacher Trevor Stokes, Streetfront gives students regular academic courses but also an intensified physical education curriculum including camping, hiking, and high-endurance experiences like running marathons and climbing mountains.  For Harmony, these difficult tasks have been a route to restored self-esteem and to seeing herself as an accomplished person.  
Born in Vancouver as Harmony Patterson, though she uses her middle name Satori, she experienced frequent disruptions to the family and moved several times to different communities and new high schools.  Gradually Harmony started skipping classes and hanging out with other troubled, at-risk kids.  In the summer of 2015, at the concerned insistence of her mother Andi and step-parent Dani, Harmony attended a recovery-based day treatment program for youth run by Watariwhich Harmony reflects on as an experience that helped her envision her potential.   
But when it came to attending Streetfront, the teenager objected.  “I was reluctant and resistant to going at first.  I was upset that it wasn’t my choice.”  As well, she didn’t like running.  She was not athletically-oriented, and had never played sports.   
But after a short time at Streetfrontshe found regular running calming as well as strengthening “both physically and mentally.”  At Streetfront, she and other students ran three times a week, for almost an hour but each at their own pace.  Her first runs were 3 km, progressing into 5 km, 7 km, 10 km, then her first ‘Deep Cove Run’ of 18 km.  Now after one year at Streetfront, she credits it for achievements she otherwise would never have attempted.  Like her first half-marathon, the BMO event on May 1, 2016, when she ran even faster than expected, then another half-marathon on June 30.   
Then there are the mountains.  Streetfront created a program called Street2Peak, taking inner city youth internationally to climb mountains. Training recently for a 2017 trip to Patagonia, Chile, Harmony at least once told herself that she couldn’t finish and didn’t want to do this anymore.  But she found a way to finish the training hike, and says she’s glad. 
Harmony has learned to show up and try something out even if she’s not sure she’ll ‘like’ it.  “It’s good,” she observes, because I end up in a lot of activities that I never would otherwise.  And sometimes you realize you enjoy them.  It’s inspiring.”
Doing these things is stressful.  But when you finish, you’ve accomplished it.   And you carry that with you.  Twenty years from now I’ll be saying ‘I ran a marathon!’”
Next year Harmony will attend Total Education for Grade 11, since Streetfront is for grades 8 – 10 only She plans to stay connected with Streetfront my entire life.”  This coming November she’ll join them in another half marathon in Seattle, then plans to run her first full marathon next spring in Vancouver.  
But she doesn’t think she’ll be running forever.  Harmony has other passions including for art, especially drawing, and hopes to attend Emily Carr to study art and design.  In other areas of life, she has recently earned her Learner’s permit to drive.  She has a job at Cineplex in International Village, will also work at the PNE this summer, and is proud that she is earning and saving money.  “My life is really going forward.”  
She calls Trevor Stokes “probably the best teacher I’ve ever had.  He’s a really amazing person” who runs with the kids, talks with them, and really gets to know them.  She also credits additional staff members Gord Howey and Barry Skillin for their expertise and support.  “I’m so glad I got to spend even a year at Streetfront.  It’s changed my life.”  
Harmony wants people to know that anyone can do the things she does if they put their minds to it.  “Even if someone has told you that you can’t do something, you can.  People are scared or embarrassed to ask for help.  I was too.  But if you push yourself, you can do anything.”

10th Annual SHLF run fast approaching

September 12, 2016 Leave a comment

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.



Categories: Blog, Running