The Summer Strides program started in 2017 with one location in Little Village. Chicago Run participants from Eli Whitney Elementary expressed an interest in keeping a program similar to Running Mates going all summer. Students met at Little Village Lawndale High School 3 days a week to prepare for a 5k race at the end of the summer. This program also opened up the opportunity for older LACE Up! program participants to put some of their coaching/running expertise to use and help conduct practices. Building on the success of this pilot year, Chicago Run will serve three locations in the summer of 2018: families at The Community Builders (Oakley Square Apartments), campers at Christopher House Uptown, and youth in the Little Village Neighborhood. Due to additional funding, Little Village participants will have the opportunity for weekly excursions to local forest preserves for trail runs.
Similar to the Running Mates program, Summer Strides teaches participants about teamwork, commitment, and perseverance. Utilizing a training program that incorporates running workouts, strength training exercises, goal setting, nutrition information, and team-building activities, they develop a deeper understanding of community and diversity. As the program continues to expand, it will brings youth from different neighborhoods together to break down racial and cultural stereotypes. Participants forge friendships that might not otherwise form due to the geographic and cultural barriers that exist between neighborhoods.
Summer Strides participants set goals for themselves at the beginning of the season to achieve new levels of health and fitness. Students set both nutrition and fitness goals and continuously re-assess and evaluate these goals throughout the season. Our youth athletes actively engage in practices and have the opportunity to help lead stretches and activities during practices to promote both leadership and team building skills. Additionally, LACE Up! high school students act as Junior Chicago Run coaches and help coach practices.
Participants not only run during their practices, but they also participate in fun running games/activities and strength training exercises that challenge them to work together and support each other. Additionally, during their practices, Summer Strides participants have the opportunity to meet youth in different grade levels and classes. They often run in groups or pairs and help push each other throughout their run. Students who finish early often run extra laps to support and encourage their friends or wait at the finish line to cheer their teammates on as they finish.
During the season, our youth athletes participate in field trips and a local 5k race. These opportunities give our participants a chance to interact with people from different neighborhoods whom they might otherwise never meet. The field trip is a chance to build new relationships and have fun. In the summer of 2017, our youth met with students traveling abroad from Iraq and the UK through World Chicago.
Summer Strides participants train 3 days a week during the summer season, which culminates in a local race. The races give our participants a chance to see their hard work pay off and to celebrate their success. The races help measure success, reach new goals, and experience a fun and exciting race day.