We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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My life was monochrome, like a soccer ball. But after discovering S.R.L.A. (Students Run Los Angeles), I was introduced to a chaotic world of the many colors of diversity.

I was a soccer player during my middle school years, not the best but a decent one. I enjoyed soccer, but I mainly played to do something that satisfied my family tradition and ethnic background.

I tried out for my high school soccer team for two years and failed in both attempts to make the team. I had to face the truth; I had broken this family tradition. When I told my family that I did not make the team, it didn't seem to faze them. However, I knew that I had disappointed the soccer players of my family. I didn't waste time sulking; I desperately wanted to do something to redeem myself.

Joining another sport was out of the question because tryouts were over or were until the following semester. After seeing a flyer on a classroom door that read, "Join Students Run Los Angeles the program that prepares you for a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of the Los Angeles Marathon," I searched for the instructor of the program and asked to join. I joined S.R.L.A. not only to redeem myself of my disappointment but to finally stand out from the shadow of soccer players in my family, to do something for myself, to do something that I would feel proud of.

In life, certain experiences present challenges that change the way people relate to themselves. Certain life events mark life-changing moments that alter lives either positively or negatively. The first two weeks of being in S.R.L.A. were awkward because everybody was new to each other. However, over time, running together and discussing our purpose for being in the program built a bond. Some joined to lose weight, improve their health, compete in races, or try something new. Though our reasons were diverse, we all aimed for the same goal; the 26th mile.

With one foot in front of the other, my heart beat harder, pumping blood throughout my body. Sweat dripping down my forehead as my body temperature rose. Feeling the wind on my face as I turned around the track, up the trail, and down the road. Running gave me wings. It gave me this sensation where I could do anything. I didn't feel obliged; I felt free and accomplished.

For me, training for and completing a marathon represented the first time I committed to a specific goal. It was an experience where I met students of all ethnic groups, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It was an experience that gave me an important sense of belonging.

Yes, setbacks are inevitable. However, adversity is what separates the good from the great. Failure has made me a humbler person. And more importantly, it has shown me the many colors of diversity; it showed me where I belong.

© Jose Hernandez. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.