Skyler Miller has always recognized the benefits of running, but now he’s seeing the results from a new perspective.
The Alpine Elementary fifth-grader is part of the school’s fledgling Let Me Run team, which meets twice a week not only to run, but to strengthen relationships, develop leadership skills and embrace being part of a team.
Skyler said he’s never had to be pushed to run as he’s taken on 5K’s while working out at the YMCA. But now he’s seeing benefits that he never imagined.
“It’s always been fun for me. We’ve always done it, my sister, my mom, the whole family,” he said. “It gets us active and out of the house.” Now Skyler said he’s enjoying being part of a team.
The Let Me Run program, started by Alpine Elementary principal Jason Snyder, consists of fourth- through eighth-graders who run after school. In addition to completing runs of varying distances from 20 minutes to a mile, the youngsters also discuss a range of topics — from what makes a leader in a classroom, to the benefits of teamwork, to healthy lifestyles.
The message is apparently getting through to youngsters.
“We encourage each other,” fifth-grader Ronan Jameyson said. “Running can build relationships. I’ve made some new friends here who are almost like family now. It’s just life.”
Taking Laps Builds Unity
That attitude is exactly what Snyder was hoping for when he began gauging the interest in building such a team before school let out last June. When students returned this fall, Snyder found 10 boys lined up to constitute the team. The Let Me Run program requires a minimum of six runners and a maximum of 14 on each team. Other Kent County schools offering the program include Grandville’s Cummings Elementary and the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center.
Snyder said the idea is for youngsters not only to gain much-needed exercise twice a week, but to begin to learn how to depend on each other, work together and recognize the positives in life and school. Snyder said the program purposely edges the boys out of their comfort zone in the quest for personal growth.
Among the program’s features is a “unity lap” led by a different runner each practice. The boys do a series of warmups in the gym prior to running on one of three different courses.
“We have a real variety of boys in the group and they’ve really embraced it,” said Snyder, a former soccer player and coach who has either been a teacher or principal at Alpine Elementary for 14 years. “There are differences in the (ability) levels of all the kids and that’s great,” he added. “The feedback has been very positive.”
“It’s kind of (the beginning) of the boys-to-men process,” co-coach Mike Moorehead said. “The activities we do are appropriate for their grade level. There’s a lot of self-empowerment and the beginning of being a leader. You’re never too young for that.”
The program concludes with a 5K run Nov. 12.