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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.”

Another Successful Marathon

Hey Streetfront Supporters,

The first Sunday in May is always a special time at Streetfront. Seasons have changed, the school year is dwindling and kids are all the more excited about life. The first Sunday in May also brings us the Vancouver Marathon, a mainstay in Streetfront’s calendar.

We’ve been training since the Seattle Marathon in late November for this day. Kids have logged hundred’s of kilometres, battled their resolve and will to train, fought with the mental side of long distance running and persevered through the personal and social struggles that are part of being a kid from this part of town.

I expanded the marathon program this year to include Britannia Secondary kids. A Britannia Run Club was borne and from it a beautiful cohort of like-minded kids, showed up every Tuesday and Thursday to train for 3 events: (1) an introductory 3 km race sponsored so brilliantly by Lara Penno and her crew from the BMO Vancouver Marathon, (2) the 10 km Sun Run and then culminating with (3) either the half or full Vancouver Marathon. My hope was to allow more students to be a part of this very special group of former and current Streetfront students. Let the main school kids see a totally different side of these alternative kids – maybe kids they formerly judged. Grant them a chance to do something that almost nobody their age can do. Give them a chance to show, through their merits, that they are as worthy as anyone.

We met most of the kids on Friday at 3 pm to discuss our plan for the weekend. We go over all the basic rules of the race (number one rule: DON’T EVER GET OFF THE COURSE TILL I FIND YOU) and try to allay their fears and trepidations. We then meet on Saturday night at the Streetfront portable for a huge feast. By 9:30 pm, we had over 25 kids eating pizza and chicken wings (don’t judge the training methods), sharing past marathon stories, imparting wisdom to the newcomers and maybe best of all, being kids. The party starts to break down around 11 and now it’s time to get to bed. Every kid gets their tatoo on their forearm (my cell number in case something goes screwy), puts their running gear in their specified spot and hopes to sleep a deep sleep and gain as much strength as they can.

Morning comes faster than they can believe an the HALFS are up by 5:30 am, trying to consume as many calories as possible. The anxiety is palpable. Checking and double-checking all their gear is the norm. Watching what someone else does and see if that should apply to you. Barry arrives with the bus and before you know it we have 17 students buckling up their seat belts and staring that million mile stare into the darkened streets of Vancouver. We arrive at the start, have a group chat and cheer and then it’s all up to them. I’ll bring up the rear and pick up anyone who falters but nobody falters. The race is done before we start. Every kid determined to finish and to hold that glinting medal up to their eyes just a few feet past the finish line.

Barry then drives back to the portable. Gord and Brandon Steele have been waking the FULLS and force-feeding as much food into them as possible. The portable looks like Best Buy at the end of Boxing Day. As the clock continues to move, they now get on the bus at 7:45 am and head to the same start line. We have to take the 21 passenger bus plus my 7 seat van to get all the runners there. When we do our final head check we have 25 athletes ready to knock off the 42.2 km marathon course. 25!!!!!!!! Everyone of them knows this race is going to bust them up. Everyone of them knows, there will be painful and debilitating stretches. Everyone of them knows that someone will be there to pick them up. Everyone knows that we don’t leave anyone behind. Everyone knows we won’t stop and we can’t stop. By the time Raymond King finishes (his 13th marathon with us, and who will also be graduating from Langara University this year) nearly 6 hours after the start of the race, all 25 have crossed the finish line. Brandon Steele will have finished the race probably 6 times because as soon as he gets one group of kids across, he backtracks to find the next group of kids, then brings them in. We’ll meet at the Olympic Torch (a very conscious decision) and commiserate and then take the photo that will become part of our lore. A place and time will be frozen for each of these kids. Disbelief in their eyes and wonder in their thoughts. We will bring it in for one final cheer and explain to them all what they mean to us and how proud we are of them. After the cheer fades, we will separate and each struggle to get home. The body will be sore but the kid is soaring, just looking for someone he or she knows, so they can tell them their story from today. Those stories are more important than anything. They are the reason we do what we do.

Thanks goes out to Barry Skillin and Gord Howey, who put in so much extra time to make everything at Streetfront go so well. “They are gold, Jerry, gold!!!!” Big shout out to Brandon Steele who joined our team about 5 years ago and has never said no to any request. A massive thank you to Lara Penno and the Vancouver International Marathon Society who have been beyond generous in their support and dedication to making this all happen. It would not have been possible without Lara and her crew’s support. Thanks aplenty to Crystal Li for being our female chaperone on the sleepover and all around fantastic volunteer. Huge thanks to Vanda Borean and her team at Rackets and Runners who supplied every runner with a brand new pair of beautiful running shoes. And a huge thanks to all of you for your support over the years.

And now introducing the 2016 Vancouver Half and Full Marathon Team. Too many kids to name but look at their faces. Those are champions.

Thanks,
Trevor

ps – Theo ran his 2nd full marathon. Quite a kid!

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/

Deep Cove Run – Sept. 18, 2015

September 20, 2015 Leave a comment

Trevor Stokes
Teacher – Streetfront Alternative Program
Department Head – Alternative Programs, Britannia Secondary
604-506-9131

STREETFRONT TAKES ON DEEP COVE ONCE AGAIN, AND ARE VICTORIOUS

September 20, 2015 Leave a comment

It doesn’t take Streetfront long to get back into high gear. On only the 2nd Friday back with only 3 training runs prior, 11 allstars got their gear on, ignored the rain and hammered out a run from Britannia to Deep Cove, North Vancouver.

Special thanks to Constable Brandon Steele for running alongside us and to Barry Skillin for doing the pick up.

Great work kids.

Trevor Stokes
Teacher – Streetfront Alternative Program
Department Head – Alternative Programs, Britannia Secondary
604-506-9131

Deep Cove Run – Sept. 18, 2015

September 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Well it didn’t take long for the Streetfront kids to get back at it.

Trevor Stokes
Teacher – Streetfront Alternative Program
Department Head – Alternative Programs, Britannia Secondary
604-506-9131

Another Successful Marathon

December 4, 2014 Leave a comment

We had 18 current and past Streetfront students run in the annual Seattle Marathon. The weather was cold but sunny and the youth did a fantastic job, especially those running their first full or half marathon! Well done all!!