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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 : 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.”

Street2Peak Project 2017 Destination Announcement

We are very happy to announce that we have finalized our next Street2Peak trek for March 2017… Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile!!

http://www.internationaltravellermag.com/2-hike-in-torres-del-paine-national-park-patagonia/

The iconic Torres del Paine. Photo from internationaltravellermag.com

Torres del Paine was voted the fifth most beautiful place in the world by National Geographic. Torres del Paine, and the whole Chilean Patagonia region for that matter, is a dramatic landscape of granite spires and sharp-edged mountain ranges that rise out of plains, emerald green lakes and accented with glaciers.

We will backpack self-guided over 75 km’s of Torres del Paine extensive trail system utilizing campsites and refugios (mountain huts) along the way. We are so excited to have chosen Patagonia as our next trek to expose our youth to the incredible beauty of people and places of this world.

Stayed tune for more details about this trip and our fundraising efforts to make this trip a reality.