Jose never really had a hobby before he joined the running club at Reflections Central School about a year ago.
He was really just trying to make a good impression on his teachers and get off of campus for a couple of hours a week, but now he’s returning to the school to run even though he graduated recently.
“Running taught me discipline,” he said. “It taught me how to be responsible for my own actions.”
Cindy Stallo, a teacher at the school, and Michael Rolan, a deputy probation officer there, started the club in 2011 to give the students some exercise, a change to get off campus, and a self-esteem boost
“Sometimes it’s the first time they’ve heard people tell them what a great job they’ve done,” Stallo said.
Some of the 10 or so students in the club were even featured in a
recent article in Runner’s World magazine.
Before he joined the club, Jose was like most of the other students who have participated and hadn’t run more than a mile. Since then, he has run in eight races, including several 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons.
“It feels great hearing my mom tell me that she’s proud of me when I finish a race,” he said.
Jose said he’s hoping to run a full marathon soon.
Stallo and Rolan were both active runners when they started the club. They knew that running would be good for some of the students at the school, but they had no idea how successful it would become. They started out simply running around the campus in La Mesa.
Since then, students at the school have run almost 30 races and now visit various locations in San Diego and La Mesa.
Victoria, another student at the school, joined the club because she’s enjoys being active and thought running would help clear her mind.
“It helped me a lot,” she said. “I felt really proud of myself because I finished what I started.”
Running is therapeutic for the students and gives Stallo and Rolan a chance to get to know the students better as they run side-by-side with them.
Reflections Central serves students on probation who have mental health issues. Most students attend classes there for six months to a year.
“These kids typically come from or have had extreme trauma in their life,” Rolan said. “They have a whole lot more to overcome.”
The running club meets twice a week: one day to run and another to work out. All students in the club have to meet certain criteria in order to participate, including good attendance and passing regular drug tests.
For students at Reflections Central that aren’t into running, there are other opportunities for them to follow their passions, such as music, art and afterschool boxing.