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Eero Gaffney

October 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Eero Gaffney is a rare guy.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a student like him. Actually, I know I haven’t.

I first met Eero in grade 8. I coach Britannia’s cross country team and as I always do in the first week of September, I roam through the halls trying to entice anyone to join. The sign-up sheet taped to the skywalk doesn’t get a lot of traffic, what xcountry needs is face-to-face contact. I met Eero on one of those walks. I asked him if he wanted to join the xcountry team. He said yes and the next day became one of the best moments of my teaching career. I got to work with a kid like Eero Gaffney.

He showed up to every practice, on time, shoes tied, ears open and mind clear. He never balked about the rain or the distance, the workout or the method. He loved the challenge of distance running. He loved the psychology of endurance. He appreciated the pain and suffering that can only come through dedication and commitment. He accepted the losses and the setbacks. He endured not achieving what he wished for but reluctantly understood, unlike most youth, that hard work and determination will eventually win out. He trusted that we would get better, both as coach and athlete. The athlete got better, that’s for sure, and time will have to tell if the coach actually improved.

 

As I expected, Eero qualified for the first junior xcountry championship held in Cloverdale, BC. He literally swam through the course (the course had sections over his knees in rain water) and placed in the top third. As a team we were just delighted to be there. He was a bit disappointed but nothing a trip to Tim Horton’s couldn’t quickly erase.  But through that disappointment I could tell he was taking stock of his competition, listing the names and the schools of the Vancouver athletes who finished ahead of him. In typical Eero fashion, he was mapping out his next moves.

His grade 9 and 10 years were more of the same delightful student.  Though far junior to all the other athletes, he quickly became our de-facto captain, always modeling the resilience and strength needed to succeed in such a grueling sport.  Travelling with Eero to the provincial xcountry championships in each of those years made me appreciate the kid even more. He was always on time. Always so appreciative of the opportunity to participate and represent our school. Always spilling his guts to make us proud.

It was around this time that I asked Eero if he wanted to join the Streetfront marathon team. I had been working closely with so many Britannia athletes through xcountry, track and field, ultimate and basketball that I always hoped some of those non-alternative school kids would want to challenge themselves by committing to train for marathons. These very students had grown up with the Streetfront kids, went to the same elementary schools, probably were even friends at one time but as often happens, time moves on, so do kids and their lives.  I wanted to reunite these students and have both groups benefit from the interaction.

Eero ran his first half marathon in Vancouver in June 2015. He was 15 years old and didn’t really know what he getting into. He ran with his buddy Llewyn and giggled his way through a sub 2-hour time.  Next came Seattle in late November of that year and he opted for the full marathon. Again, not knowing what to expect, he went out cautiously and finished around 4 hours. This was the moment that Eero made a profound commitment to himself, our xcountry team and our marathon program. He asked what other kind of training he could do to supplement our xcountry program. He joined an elite group of high school runners out at UBC. Started running prescribed workouts on our off days. Started hitting the gym. He was determined to achieve something special.

His next marathon was Vancouver in June 2016. He went out with a different group of Streetfront marathoners and finished around 3:40. Then came Seattle the following November and he broke 3:20. For those who are not marathoners – shaving off 20 minutes in just 5 months is an amazing feat.  All of this led to the 2017 Vancouver Marathon, where on May 7th, Eero Gaffney became the 1st Streetfront marathoner to break 3 hours and in doing so qualified for the Boston Marathon – the most prestigious marathon in the world. He ran it in 2:59 – shaving off another 20 minutes in 5 months of training.

Since I started training kids to run marathons in 1999, I’ve always dreamed of seeing a kid of mine qualify for Boston. I knew someone would have it in them. Many of got close but none were fortunate enough to get to Massachusetts.  Eero became that kid. He proved to me that hard work, dedication and commitment aren’t just trite phrases I rattle off in the hopes that a kid will finish their routine 10 km training run – they are the foundation of something important.

We will fly off this upcoming April 13th, with Eero, his mom’s, a few other family members to Boston to watch a Britannia student and a Streetfront alum race with other champions. He will belong with this esteemed group. He has earned his right to be there.

Eero and all the other Streetfront marathoners would never have the opportunity to achieve such goals if it weren’t for the incredible support we’ve received from the SHLF over the past decade. They have single-handedly allowed us to become the world’s leading high school marathon team. They have allowed us to create the largest field study project in Canadian history (the Street2Peak Project), which Eero participated in. SHLF has changed how we view alternative school kids; their funding allows us to change the narrative of so many troubled youth, turning their tragedies into triumphs.

Eero Gaffney represents all that is fantastic in this world. He will make a profound impact on everything that he touches. SHLF allowed him that place in the sun.

Thanks to Eero Gaffney for making me so proud and to the SHLF for allowing us to do the work that we do.

Trevor Stokes

Seattle Marathon Training Run

November 1, 2016 Leave a comment

We know a marathon is close when we have a number of current and past Streetfront students running the almost 19 km route to Deep Cove, North Vancouver. Plans are afoot for this years Seattle Marathon on November 27th, 2016!

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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.”  
harmony-2
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.”

Deep Cove Training Run

November 5, 2015 Leave a comment

We had 16 youth (of a possible 28 for the Seattle Marathon) running the 19 km Deep Cove route today – and in record time too! Well done gang!

Pre-run group shot

Pre-run group shot

Post-run group shot finding them still looking fresh.

Post-run group shot finding them still looking fresh.

Strachan Hartley Legacy Foundation Run – Oct. 18, 2015

October 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Today Streetfront students (current and former), staff, family and friends participated in the annual Strachan Hartley Legacy Foundation run. SHLF is our single biggest financial supporter of Streetfront and we always look forward to their 5 km and 10 km fundraising run. If you want to support a Foundation that supports youth through sports then ple

ase consider a donation at http://shlf.ca/