South Coast G.R.I.T

BY Sheryl Briggs

Old Rochester Regional High School

Project Description
South Coast G.R.I.T. strives to transform the lives of students through running by training for and completing the Providence Marathon and Half Marathon. With long hours in the classroom, unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyles and lack of self-confidence, youth in our society are at risk for diseases later in life. With roots in the South Coast running communities, G.R.I.T. has a vision for addressing this health and learning crisis. Through training and completion of the Providence Marathon, we hope that students learn to deny these societal limitations and achieve their potential. We give youth this life changing experience during the imperative adolescent years in the hope that the lessons they learn become life long habits.
The mission of G.R.I.T is to challenge students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of the Providence Marathon.
For many of the students, training for a marathon represents the first time that they have committed to a specific goal. By providing them an opportunity for incremental accomplishment and a supportive environment to help them on their way. Our objective is to give the students the inspiration, excitement and encouragement to believe that with the courage to begin, the have the courage to succeed.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
South Coast G.R.I.T empowers students and gives them the guidance and the wisdom to believe that anything is possible with hard work. In its first year G.R.I.T trained 6 students for the Providence Marathon with a 100% completion rate. Of those 6 students, 4 of them went off to college and 2 returned for a second season. They were accompanied by 18 new teammates. Additionally, the program expanded from one high school to three during our second year. In year two, 15 completed the marathon and 5 completed the half marathon. We graduated 3 seniors and the rest are all returning for another year. We have one student who is aiming to complete her third marathon!
G.R.I.T family in the coming 2010-2011 season. G.R.I.T is hoping to one day reach every public high school in the South Coast region of Massachusetts, specifically Cape Cod.
True success is measured after the marathon. After our first year, all of our seniors have come back to continue to be part of the G.R.I.T program, last years seniors have asked to be mentors when they are in town and one student found a passion for running and has become a top runner on our high school cross country team.

Benefit to the students and the school
Through running and training for the Providence Marathon, this after-school program allows students to develop respect, self-esteem, courage, strength, confidence, healthy lifestyles and a positive direction for their future. G.R.I.T. has transformed the lives of many high school students. These students train side-by-side with their adult mentors three times a week and in the process, they grow in leadership, character development, confidence, goal-setting and positive decision-making skills. G.R.I.T provides teacher mentors who assist students in training and who reinforce the lessons of responsibility, discipline and goal-setting. Teacher mentors who support students in tackling a supremely difficult goal, to break down their mental barriers to this goal, and to create “can do” attitudes. Students begin to see teachers as individuals who believe that all have the same chance to achieve the goal, and all become winners.
We use the marathon as our vehicle. In order to complete a marathon one must work very hard and set realistic goals to reach certain training milestones. In order to be successful in high school and beyond, the same hard work and goal setting techniques apply. As the students mileage increases so does their confidence and self-esteem; they do better in school and their overall relationships improve.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
Training officially begins in October. The students and mentors will run a mile to symbolize the togetherness our journey to the finish line brings. The mile is the first of many goals that the students will have to accomplish. Each school trains in their own neighborhood during the week and starting in November the schools join forces and all meet as one team: South Coast G.R.I.T Marathon Milers.
Mile markers (Goal Milestones) are very important. They are exactly what they sound like and much more. Students will participate in a 5k race, a 10k race, 10.5 mile race, a half marathon and eventually the full marathon. Mile markers also represent different academic milestones as we track student’s grades, attitudes through surveys, attendance and behaviors. For many of our students this is the first time they have ever set goals for themselves and the first time they have actually followed through. The mile markers represent the success the students feel almost immediately after joining the program. With each mile students run, their confidence soars, evident in all other areas of their lives.
There is no place on earth as empowering as the starting line of a marathon. This is where all the hard work, dedication and perseverance meet. The students have met their goals along the way and are ready for one final test. There are tears of joy at the finish line for many reasons. The finish line brings the greatest sense of accomplishment. It also proves to the students that they can in fact do just about anything they put their mind to and that they are willing to work hard for.