This photo is of me exactly six years ago, teaching an adult College Readiness course. I struggled daily back then to find the grit and the fire that I knew was inside of me, and that I knew I needed in order to make a change. And every evening I had the privilege of standing in this classroom with people from all over the world who had nothing but grit and fire. Some of them had no other choice but to find it in themselves because of circumstances beyond their control. And some of them purposefully moved to a new country in pursuit of a better life. We met for three hours, four evenings per week. They had jobs and children. Some of the women in the class had to stand up to their families and their traditions to be there. For most of them daily life was a struggle to survive and build something new in a place so different from home. Unfortunately, they weren't always met with kindness or acceptance. But in our classroom, we created a safe world.
I remember one semester, the semester this photo was taken, I had a group of students representing 11 different countries, with a vast range of educational experience . Finding a common ground among this group and watching them form a community in spite of their differences in language, culture, experience and academic abilities was one of the most humbling and hopeful experiences I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. The common ground for all of us was education, and we believed that we could be lifted into a new place because of it.
In retrospect, these people gave me the courage to dig deeper into my own life; to uncover the little fire still burning in me and to believe I had some grit, too, for what I needed to do.
Fast forward to last summer when I signed up for a local 24 hour race, totally unaware that the organization sponsoring the race worked for a cause so close to my heart. FANS (Furthering Achievement Through a Network of Support) mentors high school students, specifically students of color and recent immigrants (the younger counterparts to the adults I worked with) that have historically been underrepresented in higher education. When students complete this intensive mentorship program, they are eligible for a scholarship for college, and these scholarships are funded entirely by contributions to the FANS race. 100% of the contributions go directly to support the students with books, tuition and expenses.
This race was, hands down, the best race experience I've ever had for a number of reasons, but at the top of the list is the staff and race volunteers who looked after us. They cheered us on tirelessly all day and all night, and kept epically positive attitudes through the hours long storm. They fed us and weighed us to make sure we were staying healthy, and they were out on the trails in the middle of the night boosting our spirits. I felt incredibly supported during this race, much how I imagine the FANS students must feel as well. These are good people working for a good cause.
I am running the FANS 24 hour race again this year, but this year I chose the fundraising option to raise extra money on behalf of the scholarship fund. I have an opportunity to give this race purpose beyond me, and I'm asking for your help to do so. I know what education can do for us in mind and spirit, and I believe deeply in the right to have that opportunity. I also know that grit and fire are key internal elements, but we need support from other people, as well. It feels like a privilege to be able to run for 24 hours and to have the kind of support that I have from my coach and friends and family, and all of the people associated with the FANS race, and I'm grateful to have a meaningful reason to carry me through the long day and night of running. I need to raise a minimum of $500 and am asking you to consider making a contribution. I ran 50 miles last year (in 19 hours--we were pulled off course for a number of hours due to storms). I am projecting 60 miles for this year, although secretly (well, it was a secret!) I'd like a few more than that. If you'd like to have some fun with it you could donate per (projected) mile, although truly any amount helps and is greatly appreciated! For sure, if you donate, I will run a loop carrying your name with me, for whatever that's worth : )
I sense some kind of full circle from that photo above in the College Readiness class to running this race. I feel extra bouyed knowing I am running not only to stoke my own internal fire, but to contribute to something bigger than myself, and I would be grateful and honored by your contribution.
I'll leave you with one of my very favorite quotes--appropriate to the endeavor of an endurance race, the adventure in education, and an overall recipe for a good life:
"I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion." Kurt Hahn, founder of Outward Bound