Local mentors help Katy ISD students become marathon runners
Not everyone is affected emotionally by crossing the finish line the first time, explains Jenny Demarest, executive director and president of the Board of Directors for Katy Students Run (KSR). However, it can be a life-changing event for many people.
By Lorrie Crow Kimble | KATY MAGAZINE, September 2017 Photo by John Saunders Photography
“It’s empowering and being empowered changes you,” says Demarest. “We wanted to share that feeling, giving others the chance to experience it.” So, in 2009, a group of runners founded KSR to give high school students who weren’t already involved in sports a chance to run and experience that particular sense of accomplishment.
Building a Base
Students are nominated by teachers, counselors, and administrators, then recruited in the spring. A Volunteer Information Session is held each spring for prospective volunteers. The end goal: Running the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile race, in mid-January. The runners also participate in a 5K in October and the YMCA Turkey Dash on Thanksgiving Day.
“Most coaches/mentors come in with running experience, and we then train them on our methodology and philosophies,” says Demarest. “We have only 19 weeks to take the students from 0 to 13.1 miles, so our approach is conservative, based on training safely and having fun while we train.”
Students begin the season with little to no background in running, so KSR begins by building a base while increasing mileage.
“KSR helped my son with commitment, a sense of pride, finding new friends, and following a prescribed plan.” - Kerri Francis
Running to Make a Difference
Fiona Lindgren, a Katy High School German teacher, has been a mentor for two years and says she’s involved because she knows the difference it can make in students. “They know we believe in them, and we want them to be successful and feel proud of themselves.”
Another two-year mentor, Mandy Kleinman, volunteers on Saturday mornings. The principal’s secretary at Nottingham Country Elementary says although running in the Texas heat is hard, the thought of mentoring teenagers through running is what motivates her. “KSR has made me more open-minded, understanding, and caring,” says Kleinman. “The students give back to me as much, if not more, than I feel I give to them.”
Although the time commitment for mentors can be a challenge, former principal of Taylor High School Jeff Stocks says it’s worth it. The current Katy ISD Assistant Superintendent describes dragging himself out of bed at 4:30 a.m. on a cold rainy December day to watch dozens of high school students pour out of buses ready to do a long run. “The kids just keep showing up, rain or shine,” says Stocks. “It keeps getting harder and they keep showing up.”
Helping Overcome Struggles
Seven-year mentor Phuong T. Nguyen, a Taylor High School health science technology teacher, was a KSR mentor before she became a teacher because it was something that became very important in her life. “The hardest part was learning about the struggles these young people have that we sometimes overlook,” she says. “I hope I help show them they are worth the effort and capable of what they put their minds to.”
Parents also notice a change in their children who have joined KSR. Kerri Francis’ son, a 2017 Taylor High School senior Keaton Clay, says that her son was nominated to join KSR by his teen leadership teacher. Clay ran the half marathon after being a KSR member for just one year. “KSR helped my son with commitment, a sense of pride, finding new friends, and following a prescribed plan,” says Francis.
Another benefit for both students and mentors is giving back to the community. “Giving back is at our core,” says Demarest. “We teach the students it’s very important to give back to those who help you.” Some of these include hosting water stations at the Houston Marathon and helping to stuff race packets for the YMCA Turkey Dash.
KSR’s hope is that the students, upon accomplishing their goals, come to realize that they have immense potential, according to Demarest. “But with anything big, we all have to take a chance and take that first step.”
KSR STUDENTS GO THE DISTANCE
“During training for the past three years, I realized that I will always have support from KSR. I stay true to my dreams so that they will come true, because KSR people believe in me and my dreams.” - Divyeon Perkins, 16, Katy HS
“I did not know that I could run that many miles, especially 13 of them. Every practice we would run more and get stronger. You will amaze yourself after you’ve accomplished something you never have before.” - James Hermes, 18, Taylor HS
“I was fresh off getting cut from the basketball team and was looking for something that would occupy my time. Little did I know that I would be joining a program that would change my life forever. The more we saw improvement, the more anxious we were to reach our goal.” - Ramzi Razaq, 18, Katy HS
“A friend recommended the KSR program to me. Great coaches and runners motivated and supported me, helping me through all the runs. Everyone radiates nothing but positivity.” - Tyler Jones, 18, Morton Ranch HS
“I loved all of the encouragement I got from my teammates and coaches. I can still hear Coach Jenny telling me to never give up.” - Yolanda Trejos, 16, Morton Ranch HS
LORRIE CROW KIMBLE has been a mentor to high school students and knows that KSR makes a difference.
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