Posts Tagged ‘marathon’

Jonah Andrews

October 12, 2020 1 comment

New to our school. A fantastic kid. Eyes filled with wonder, nerves, trying to make the best of this new place. She mentioned she’d been on a track team, before her mom had died, before she ran away, before things fell apart. She saw pictures of kids crossing finish lines, hugging each other. She said she’d like to know what that felt like. She asked if she could run with me. She heard about the Deep Cove run. Wondered if she could do it. I knew she could. We set it up for Friday. Unfortunately, Gord was away, things weren’t lining up. Nothing worse – getting a kid excited to try something big and then bailing. Couldn’t screw this up. Scrambling. I called Jonah. Asked for a favour. He said yes. Of course, he said yes. They ran 20 km that day. Total strangers. He held her water bottle. She looked wiped when she returned but had a huge smile on her face. You could tell she was proud. Jonah saw me looking at her and he smiled. Nothing said but everything known.

Jonah Andrews. He fills the space in between. Something needs to be done? He accomplishes it. A challenge offered? He takes it on. A smile needed? He offers it. The class needing a box of popsicles? He buys them.

I’ve known Jonah for 4 years. He entered grade 8 barely over five feet. He was completely unsure of himself. He didn’t trust the world for it was cruel, capricious and cold. He couldn’t discern who was an ally, or foe. He made a decision early on that required a lot of faith. I told him he needed to trust us. In our school, trust is everything. True success only comes from trust. It’s a contract that is signed with intent, action and truth. “Stick close to us. We’ll insulate you from the inevitable strife that new kids face.” He assented. From there he kept close. He modelled what the staff did. When I ran a 10, he ran beside me. When we shot hoops, he learned how. He always asked how to get better. Humility, the rarest of teen traits. We passed the soccer ball. Over and over. We hit the ball against the fence. Over and over. He studied the way I thought he needed to study. Over and over. We ran. Over and over. He got better and better. He stood taller. He spoke up. He trusted. He thrived.

He ran his first half marathon 13 days into Streetfront. I asked. He said yes. It was along the ocean in Richmond. Lots of veterans with us. He ran beside me. Constantly asking questions. Hoping the answers would make the experience easier. He didn’t need any of that. He ran the final 8 by himself. I had lapsed into some kind of stupor, literally seeing Show Bisons (trust me, that’s another story), and I barely finished the race. I told him to stay by the finish line and I’ll find him. I wobbled across. He came and helped me. 13 days into his life at Streetfront and he was already my right-hand man.

Jonah and I developed the kind of relationship you hope is possible between teacher and student. I pushed and he pushed back but he was never far from me. His desk was 5 feet away for 3 years. Every time I’d glance to my right, he’d be there. Always there. Flux and dysfunction are common conditions at our school. Life isn’t easy. It’s fucking hard. Hard to witness. Hard to live. But Jonah was a salve to all that. Bouncy, light, energetic, curious – a generous spirit that spread throughout. He struggled many times and sought counsel almost daily, but his burdens felt temporary compared to the others, not because they were insignificant but because there were things he wanted to experience and explore. Beating yourself up, worrying about family issues, struggling to understand the vagaries of human cruelty, were always there, but he fought through the fog to find the light. To find hope. To find a purpose.

Jonah listened and accepted the mantras that always seem to come out of a certain grey-haired teacher. “Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today.” “Be proud that today you did something that almost nobody else COULD or WOULD. Take satisfaction in that.” “Anybody can quit. It takes no skill. Finishing – that’s where freedom and liberty lie.” “Always find a reason to finish. Never look for a reason to quit.” Stupid Facebook shit but, though it reads cheesy, I believe in it. Jonah found purchase in these phrases. He started to live based on these precepts. He started off as one of the least coordinated students’ I have ever coached or taught (we are talking 1000’s of kids) and by the end of his Grade 10 year, he was easily our best athlete. Where other kids were too cool to constantly try, thinking it so utterly devoid of street cred, Jonah flipped that entirely. He made hard work and effort the standard at Streetfront. The other kids might snicker at his relentless commitment but in the end, Jonah was at the front, cruising to the finish line, the others always blaming the ref or talking about that injured something. Trying to diminish excellence and build up mediocrity.

Jonah had goals unlike any Streetfront student I’ve taught. He decided running 1000 km in a school year (technically 8 months) was a noble goal. He ran a minimum of a 10 km every single run. Often, he would finish his 10 and then head out for another 5, sometimes another 10. He’d miss his lunch (and if you know Jonah, food is a big thing to him) but the contentment that came from following through and reaching his goals, easily outweighed his hunger. He ran every marathon and half marathon we offered (usually 2-3 fulls and 4-6 halfs) each school year. He was never too injured or too tired. He never found an excuse not to succeed. He always stayed around till the last kid crossed the finish line and cheered them on like they were family. In every marathon photo, you can find Jonah smiling, obviously proud that he’s part of something special. When he graduated from Streetfront he stood alone. His running accomplishments were unparalleled – he had run almost 3000 kms (beating the previous record held by another Streetfront superstar, Ibin Ardila). He had run every single marathon or half marathon offered (ok, he missed one). During COVID, he ran 2 fulls and half in a month’s time. He’s on our Mount Rushmore. Smiling that beautifully naïve smile that only comes from believing that the world is good.

Jonah was the perfect candidate to join our next Street2Peak Expedition. Though there was no doubt he’d be a member of the team, he never took that for granted. He attended every training hike, on time, ready to go. He carried more weight than was required and assisted any nervous kid, who had their eyes searching for a caring soul. When we got to New Zealand, Jonah’s role once again morphed towards what the group needed. Tragically, and really only in a Streetfront world, we received news minutes before we departed for New Zealand, that one of the boy’s father had passed away. Unbelievably, 24 hours later, we got another awful call. This time news came that another boy’s brother had been murdered back in Vancouver. We were reeling. I had numerous conversations with our admin and the Street2Peak Team about whether the trip should be called off, whether we should send the boys home, whether family members should fly out to support us. It was crazy. The business of tragedy takes you instantly from the micro to the macro. I couldn’t tend to the boys in the way they needed. I needed help. Jonah was right there.

Both boy’s needed companionship, fellowship. They didn’t necessarily need someone to talk to them, what they needed more was somebody there to listen. Someone just to be there. Jonah was the natural fit. He intuitively knew what to do. The boys stayed up all night chatting, laughing and bypassing the pain that was so obvious. As the trip unfolded, Jonah was a constant companion of both boys. He sat beside them on the buses. His bunk right by their’s. He helped them manage their pain. The day after we returned to Canada, I took the two boys out to breakfast at Bon’s on Broadway. Both boys, without knowing, asked if Jonah was joining us. I made a call and Jonah was there before we arrived. The meal was a means of checking in on the boys but to them it was as if I wasn’t even there. They had everything they wanted and Jonah was right in the middle. One of the boys wanted to run a half during COVID, Jonah ran alongside him.

Jonah is now in Grade 11. He’s attending an amazing outdoor education program called Take-A-Hike. He will be their Valedictorian in 2 years. 100%. He texts me about 3 times a week, I wish it was more. I miss him every day. I am a strange man when it comes to friends. I’m 51 and most of my dearest friends are Senior Citizens – people well into their late 60’s and 70’s. I’m like my mom that way, I guess, I appreciate their sensibilities. I appreciate their perspectives. I like how they believe in hard work and good times. Jonah’s not 74, he’s 16, but he’s just like them. He lifts my spirits and makes me happy to do the work that I do. He’s one of my best friends.

Introducing Jonah Andrews, a Streetfront Legend.

If you’d like to support Streetfront or students like Jonah, maybe you’ll consider donating to the SHLF. This charity raises money to insure that student’s like mine can participate and explore the world around them. We usually host a charity 5 and 10 km run but due to COVID, we are fundraising through donations or the purchase of the most amazing run shirt imaginable.

If so inclined, here’s the site:

Hope this finds you all well. Happy Thanksgiving Gobble Gobble

Willy DuGray

February 4, 2017 Leave a comment

Willy DuGray entered Streetfront about as quietly as someone could. Dressed entirely in black, with his hoodie all the way up. His face was a shadow. He was hunched over and didn’t utter a sound when I first met him. I knew his family, having taught his cousin 3 years earlier. His mom was desperate to find something that would awaken her son. He was becoming a shadow himself – an outline of her former son. He was 13 years old.

It was a strange application process, since Willy contributed absolutely nothing to the interview. His lack of words, body language (literally melting into the table to avoid any human interaction) and palpable anxiety told us this was one troubled youth. His mom talked of how he used to be a precocious and garrulous youngster. How he used to be filled with energy and vitality. A kid who loved to play basketball. We had no reason to doubt her but what we saw in front of us, couldn’t have been more to the contrary.

To make things stranger, were the physical demands Streetfront asks of their student’s. We start everyday with an intense, high cardio PE class; we run three 5-10 km runs per week; we go on 30+ outdoor exclusions and 3 camping trips per school year; most of our breaks are out on the field throwing the Frisbee. How was this kid going to make it? Couldn’t have seemed like a worse fit.

Willy came to Streetfront the next day and went straight to his assigned desk and put his head down. He stayed there till we told him we had PE. Reluctantly, he got up and followed us to the gym. Promptly sat down and put his head down between his knees. He stayed that way for the entire hour. Once that was done, he returned to class and buried himself inside his hoodie with his head on the desk. He didn’t utter a word or sound. He ignored everything. We tried to introduce him to his new classmates but that was less than successful. This continued for 2 MONTHS!!!!!!!

This was not easy for me. I’m a pretty high-energy teacher, some might say, hyper. I feed off the energy of the kids. Willy was killing me. He didn’t fall for my ploys. He ignored my tangents. He was immune to any charms I thought I possessed. I was getting nervous. What was I going to do with this kid?

One day I was teaching chemistry. I was walking around the classroom talking about protons and their matching electrons. At certain times pairs of electrons are shared, these are called covalent bonds. I had just started teaching this subject and posed a question that I assumed most wouldn’t know but would segue into the next lesson. As I walked back to my desk, I passed Willy. He was in the same exact position, he always was except beside his head, written in large letters was COVALENT BOND. He hadn’t been asleep. He was actually listening. There was life!!!!

Now as I taught, I recognized the nascent intelligence inside of Willy. He started to put a few answers down on his lesson reviews. He would complete most of the class notes. He still wouldn’t talk or take his head out of his hoodie, but we were making progress. PE and the runs were still an issue. We would ask him to play and reluctantly, he started to oblige. Soccer seemed to interest him the most. We played a lot of soccer. He liked defense, so he was always on my team and we were D partners. He wasn’t really playing, more like getting in the way, but we were ok with that.



He would walk the runs to start. That was a violation of Streetfront rules but we had to bend a bit. After a month or so, the walk turned into a shuffle, which morphed to a lope and finally a run was before us. He was still draped in black, with jeans, hoodie and skin that hadn’t seen the sun for years but he was doing it.

By the end of his grade 8 year, Willy began to speak. He started to mumble answers in our academic classes. He really liked science and it became evident he knew what he was now starting to talk about. Whenever I asked the class for an answer, Willy would pause, never wanting to speak over anyone, and then when nobody else had the answer, give me the correct answer. Eventually, I had to implement the Willy Rule – Willy could only answer the questions I posed to him. If I didn’t, Willy would answer every question. I’m not lying. Every question. Willy’s grades started to rise and as we’ve seen with so many of our students, he started to apply himself to all aspects of our program (except writing essays – that’s another story but you’ll be happy to know that he has conquered that too. See the end). Soon he was enthusiastic about our PE program, he was jumping off cliffs in his snowshoes, and he was making friends. His mom was getting her boy back.

He slowly broke through as a runner, as well. He threw up a lot in those first few 10’s but he persevered. The transformation was becoming ridiculous. By the end of his grade 10 year, if the weather was apt, he would run without his shirt on, hopping over any obstacle in his path. He eventually got up the courage to run his first half marathon. Then came his second and then his first full. Willy has went on to run 11 half marathons and 4 fulls, most of these with zero training. Like so many of our former students, they have mastered the mental aspect of long distance running. Willy will be running the in the Vancouver Marathon this May alongside all the other kids, like the fixture he’s become.

I have two memories that still make me smile about Willy. The first was when I received a letter from his brother, saying how proud he was of Willy and Streetfront’s role in that success. He, like Willy, had faced incredible adversity in his life.

As a young man Willy watched as his family fell apart. He calls his own life as ghetto as they come. His sister nearly died when she fell from the 3rd floor, headfirst into the alley outside of Willy’s apartment. Willy was 6. His brother, a career criminal from the age of 8 (ask Willy), eventually committed a major crime as a 14 year old and was sent to a juvenile detention centre until he turned 19 and then was sent to Kent Maximum Security Prison. Willy was 7.

Willy didn’t talk much about his family but I learned a few things about his brother. While in prison, he honed his art skills becoming a renowned prison tattoo artist. He got his high school diploma. He even was accepted into a stained glass program, a rare thing for certain level inmates. In his letter, he mentioned that he had something for the program and he wanted Willy to give it to me. I had no idea what this gift was but I returned a letter to him, saying I’d be honoured to receive such a gift. 16425763_10158069441525459_7284282768935104241_nA few weeks later Willy walked in with the greatest gift I’ve ever received – a wonderfully crafted stained glass window with the word STREETFRONT written across it. I got Barry and Gord to get the sawzall out and within a few hours, they had cut a perfect rectangle above the door to our office and inserted the stained glass window. The most beautiful transom you have ever seen is still there, just waiting for someone to ask me where it came from.

The second memory to some wouldn’t warrant much attention but to me it meant the world. I love books, maybe too much if you ask Pauline but I think it’s not the worst vice to have. I am always yapping to my students about books and movies – art, basically, hoping that one-day, they would find in books, what I found; a constant friend and companion that always teach you something.

Willy came back to Streetfront the fall of his grade 11 year to visit. He quickly started telling me something that I had waited years to hear. He told me he had read Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic commentary on what might be in store in a McCarthy dominated USA. He was so excited to talk about the censorship issues and the larger political themes. I added a bit but basically just let him roll. I was so happy for Willy. He found it. He found the beauty in learning. He wanted to engage with those pages, not because he had to but because he wanted to. He wanted to know more.

Willy went on to become an integral part of the Streetfront family. He graduated high school at the top of his class; became a senior mentor with the Yo’ Bro Youth Initiative (an amazing non-profit that works to give kids a chance to reconnect with everything positive in life); became a manager at a recycling depot and was getting an A+ in his essay writing course (I told you, he’d conquer that). He continued his connection to Streetfront, showing up in the mornings for our PE classes and always coming back when I needed him to.

Willy will be travelling to Taiwan this summer with his girlfriend. When he gets back, he’ll start classes at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Who knows, maybe you’ll be sitting beside him in class? He’ll be easy to find. He’ll be sitting up taller than anyone else in that classroom.

I’d like to introduce you to Willy Valour DuGray.

Raymond King

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

People think they have it tough. I hear it everyday, how hard their life is.

Raymond King has never had it easy. NEVER. Believe me on this one. However bad things might seem, take solace that you didn’t face the struggles and obstacles this young man has encountered since birth.

Ray came to Streetfront for his grade 10 year. His early school years were filled with upheavals and new beginnings. Consistency and stability were totally absent. Every report card had the same, classic, kiss of death comment, “Raymond has great potential BUT…..”

He definitely struggled in school but the teacher’s were absolutely correct about one thing – the kid had the goods. He just didn’t operate the way they needed him to.

His high school career careened off course pretty quickly. He was asked to leave his high school towards the end of grade 8. He joined an alternative program and found some stability but was still way, way off course. He entered Streetfront in September of 2010, very skeptical of what we were going to offer him.


The first few weeks weren’t super positive. Ray showed up and participated but his heart wasn’t really in it. He had an aloofness and air of superiority that I was unsure how to tackle. His passive aggressive tendencies were well-earned, I knew that after reading his file but I couldn’t earn his respect. It was getting towards late November and I decided to take a different tack.

He had become a very consistent runner with the program, knocking off 10 km after 10 km but he always ran with a friend from his former high school. I was always at the back, picking up any kids who were struggling. I decided one day to go out with the two of them and see if I could take a bit of that smugness off of his face. The run started out slowly and then the pace quickened and quickened. By the 3 km mark they knew what was up. There were no conversations on this run. At every stop light, we kept our eyes on the flashing figure and when it was time to go, we were off. To this day, I have never ran so hard. I’m not sure if they knew but I was breaking down. The last km is a downhill push towards Britannia Secondary and I put everything I had into it. When we pulled up to the portable, I looked over and knew they were dying too. We didn’t say anything. I shook their hand, like I do to every kid who has ever run a 10 during a training run, but remained silent. They knew what transpired. I hoped I had broken through.

The next few weeks were incredible. Ray started to pushing himself more in his academics. He went to Seattle with us and crushed his first full marathon. He started to be a better teammate in PE. He was becoming one of us. He started talking more, not to just us but to his classmates. The sneer and disdain that he once so proudly showed, was being replaced with a welcoming and playful disposition. As the year progressed, Ray turned into the leader of our school. He led in the classroom, led on our outdoor trips, led in our tournaments and led in his commitment to our school.

He left us after his grade 10 year and returned to the high school that kicked him out in grade 8. I told him to walk back into that school and show them what he had accomplished, not in an “f-you”, kind of way but rather in a “… I’m not the kid you used to know” kind of way. And that he did.

He went back and made the honour roll. He went back and starred on the basketball team. He went back and proved to all the doubters and hopefully to one nasty VP, that kids can change if given the support and challenged in the right way.

Ray went on to Langara and then transferred to Simon Fraser University. He is in the fourth year of his Criminology Degree. He is preparing to write the L.S.A.T., which he will write in the spring. We will be there when he crosses the stage to get his degree, along with his amazing grandfather, David Webb, who has supported and cared for Ray for most of his life. We will be there when Ray passes the Bar. We will always be there for Ray because since he left in grade 10, he has never forgot us. He has run every single marathon we’ve participated in since 2010 and every half marathon. That’s 14 fulls and 6 halfs. He has been the big brother to a hundred or more Streetfront kids who grew up in the same world that he came from.

I have NEVER heard Raymond King complain about anything. Nothing. He puts his head down and does the work. That’s what a man does. That’s Raymond King.

If you are interested in other Streetftont stories or would like to donate to our Street2Peak Project (the largest Canadian field study project in Canadian history) please follow the links below.

Frank Joseph

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Here’s another Streetfront gem.

Please meet Frank Joseph. Frankie came to Streetfront after a rough start to his high school life. Always precocious and opinionated, he struggled to find acceptance in his grade 8 year. It was “suggested” that he find a new school. Streetfront became his new school.


Frankie quickly ingratiated himself to the Streetfront staff. A natural athlete, Frankie always felt most comfortable be it l dropping into Hastings skate bowl as a 9 year old or working at his crossovers on the blacktop. He quickly latched onto the physical components of our program. Within days, Frankie was running three 10 km runs each week. By the end of November of his 1st year at Streetfront, he successfully ran the Seattle full marathon as a 13 year old. The troubles and conflicts that had dominated his school life were slowly fading into the background – what was emerging was the talent and confidence that was lying in trust inside that growing body.

Frankie was always a risk taker but they were the wrong kind of risks. What he wasn’t initially prepared to do was commit to his education. I’ve always believed that once we “got” the kid hooked, we could leverage the physical and psychological gains we’ve made and translate that into taking more risks academically. Frankie took on that challenge. By the end of his grade 10 year, he was our top student.

He was flourishing. He decided to enter Britannia Secondary for the remainder of his high school career. The teachers quickly found the same amazing kid we had got to know over the past two years. Frankie continued his connection to Streetfront as a peer tutor and mentor to our younger students. He took considerable interest in our younger Aboriginal boys, who he could see so much of himself in them. He joined the fabled Senior Boy’s basketball team; was selected to participate in the Honourable Paul Martin Initiative, which was an incredible entrepreneurial business program designed for a select cadre of Aboriginal students; participated in building homes for destitute families in Mexico; worked tirelessly to support his family; attended Aboriginal Rediscovery Camps in the summers; you name it, Frankie was involved.

Frankie graduated from High School and wanted to give back even more. He raised funds to attend a leadership/fellowship program in Oliver, BC. This culminated with him doing extensive outreach work in the slums of India.

Once Frankie returned to Canada, he made the decision to enter UBC and start his Education degree. He is currently in his second year and is quickly becoming a star in his program. Like Jesse Costucci-Phillips, his goal is to become an alternative education teacher.

Frankie has never backed down from a challenge. He thrives when things get tough. We’ve witnessed him become the distinguished and accomplished young man that he is today.

Oh yeah, he’s 20 years old and has already run 13 full marathons and 4 half marathons.

I’d like to introduce you to Frank Joseph, an all-star if there ever was one.

If you are interested in other Streetftont stories or would like to donate to our Street2Peak Project (the largest Canadian field study project in Canadian history) please follow the links below.

Toni Gladstone

January 31, 2017 Leave a comment

Hey Everyone,

I’d like to introduce you to Toni Gladstone. Toni went to Streetfront for three glorious years.
She entered grade 8 about as weak and unmotivated as any kid I’ve ever come across. Barry once reminisced that she tried to pay someone to travel the 30 feet to get her something from the vending machine. But as feeble as she may have presented, there was no denying a mischievous little streak in her eyes and a beautifully intelligent, yet very reluctant, mind.

She stuck with us and started to believe in herself. First her grades started to improve, then she had the burgeoning confidence to start applying herself in our PE classes. Then came an interest in pushing herself in our running program.


The staff were in disbelief. This formerly withdrawn and broken down kid, was quickly becoming our best overall student.

By the time she graduated from Streetfront in grade 10, she was an A student, attended at 98%, ran a half marathon, played on the senior ultimate team and was fully committed to her church.

She continued her excellence at Britannia Secondary and graduated with ease, two years later. From there she did humanitarian work in Mexico building houses, continued with her fellowship and then moved to Saskatchewan (the kid has such great taste) and started university.

She just finished her B.A and has decided to move to Winnipeg to help inner-city kids. Something she knows a thing about.

Lets stop focussing on the inanity and debasement of what’s important in this world. Find the Toni’s that are out there. They will make us smile and know that things will all work out.

Congratulations, Toni. You are as beautiful as they come!!!!!!!

Street ……………………WHAT???????

Trevor speaks with The Tyee

December 6, 2016 Leave a comment

Here’s another video highlighting Streetfront and what we can accomplish with our students. Thanks to The Tyee for their continued interest in our little school.


Seattle Marathon Weekend: Nov. 26-27, 2016

November 29, 2016 Leave a comment

Once again we broke our record for the number of Streetfront/Britannia current and alumni running in the Seattle Marathon. We had 31 eager runners – many running their first full or half marathon! Jesse Costucci up until this weekend was our only female student to run a full 42.2 km distance but after this weekend we added 2 more female students to accomplish this feat. Congratulations to Sierra Sidwell and Harmony Patterson!! The entire team did fantastic in what ended up being decent running weather considering there was heavy rains falling before and after the race.

A huge thanks has to go out to the wonderful staff with the Seattle Marathon Association and an enormous and heartfelt thanks to the Vancouver Police Foundation for recently coming on board to support our marathon program. All this would not be possible without the support of so many organizations and individuals!

Every year we have more and more friends and family coming down to Seattle to support this wonderful cohort of unique youth demonstrating the B.R.I.T.annia code – Bravery, Respect, Integrity and Tenacity.

Volunteering with the RunVan

November 8, 2016 Leave a comment

After our garden class we walked over to the offices of the Vancouver International Marathon Society to volunteer our time putting together some race packages for their Fall Classic Run (21.1km, 10km and 5km) at UBC on November 13th.

The Marathon Society is a huge sponsor and supporter of our marathon program so we are happy to give back in any way we can.

Trevor speaks at the Future of Public Education in BC

October 23, 2016 Leave a comment

Trevor did what he does best… speaking with passion about what Streetfront and alternative education is all about at ‘The Future of Public Education: Beyond the Headlines’. Attendees at the Oct. 5th talk heard from academics, students, parents, teachers and others about both the challenges that the system faces, and the bright lights that are making a difference. Together, they explored the question: At it’s best, what can our public education system achieve? And what must we do to get there?

You can watch the whole event here but if you want to skip ahead to Trevor’s talk he starts at 1:18:30



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