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For the past four years, Sarah McGill has been a mentor to Kassandra Perez through her high school experience. Over the past several weeks, the two have been training together to take on a new challenge.
McGill wanted to make time to begin exercising again while Perez, a recent graduate from Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, wanted to become healthy before heading to Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs this fall.
The two will be among those running in the inaugural Colorado Youth at Risk (CYAR) Possibility 5K Run/Walk, being held June 25 on the south side of the Aurora Police Department, 15001 E. Alameda Parkway.
“Our goal is to run the whole thing,” said McGill, a program manager and mentor for CYAR. “… It’s not like we’re trying to race and beat other people.”
The women run together at least once a week and check in with each other to make sure they stay on track.
“It’s how we hold ourselves accountable,” McGill said. “… That’s (the 5K race) a very specific measurable goal.”
Organizers started the race to help promote awareness of the group. CYAR is a Denver-based nonprofit that works to help teenage students make positive choices for their future through one-on-one mentorship programs. The majority of the students involved are with Denver and Aurora public schools.
Jules Kelty, director of marketing and development for CYAR, said while only about 50 percent of Denver and Aurora high school students graduate, students who go through the program have a graduation rate of 90 percent.
“They (the students) can clear themselves so they can focus on their goals in life,” Kelty said.
The mentors spend eight to 12 hours a month with the students, and help them through social and emotional issues, in addition to school work, she said.
“(We go) hiking, go to museums, go to a park, go to anything we can find around here in town that was cheap but still fun,” Perez said.
The theme of the race is based on the possibility walk exercise, Kelty said, where participants cross an empty room doing a variety of unique dances and movements. They’re encouraged to support one another, which in turns builds a sense of community and inspiration.
“At the beginning they think they can’t do it,” she said. “At the end they can with the group.”
Organizers are hoping to recruit more than 100 new mentors for the fall, Kelty said, to help facilitate the launch of programs at two new schools.
“I knew it was a place I wanted to be because the mentors, we get a lot of training and coaching ourselves,” McGill said. “… I’ve gotten a lot more confidence.”