Running club fundraises for low-income students in City Heights, prepares for weekend 5K race
The City Heights Runners club brings together students from the middle and high schools around the community.
Club co-captain and Crawford High School senior Vanessa Alvarez describes it as a family where runners can share their cultures, languages and foods.
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“Most of the people on the team speak different languages, but we can usually communicate because we speak more than one language; it's not really like a barrier,” Alvarez said. “Usually we host banquets at the end of every season, so we get to try each other’s foods and share our culture.”
The club motivates students like team captain Joseph-Blue Sun, who is also a senior at Crawford High School. He will soon be the first in his family to go to college.
“We went to a running camp, and we took a tour of Santa Cruz. Immediately I fell in love with Santa Cruz and the university,” Sun said. “You could say the running did affect me going to college and going to Santa Cruz.”
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Coach Tlaloc Venancio-Mancilla said it took money to create those opportunities for low-income students.
“The running shoes are very expensive, so a lot of the kids in the neighborhood cannot afford it,” he said. “I, myself, when I was in high school, could not afford it. I would go to the parks ... and I would go collect cans to buy my running shoes.”
Venancio-Mancilla ended up getting a scholarship to run at a college, but he wants to create a smoother road to success for the teenagers he coaches.
One way City Heights Runners is fulfilling that mission is by fundraising for low-income student-athletes through UrbanLife's 9th Annual City Heights Runners 5K and Kid's Fun Run.
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“It’s more than a fundraiser for us — it’s started to feel like a City Heights community event,” City Heights Runners coach and co-founder Chris Brewster said.
The organization has been hosting the 5K run for nearly a decade, with a pause in 2021 because of the pandemic.
The event returns this Saturday at North Chollas Community Park, and Brewster is excited to have it back.
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“We have a lot of City Heights elementary school-aged kids that come out and do the Fun Run, people from the City Heights community that come year-in and year-out,” Brewster said.
Online registration is open for the 5K run until midnight on Friday.
There will also be day-of-race registration at the event from 7 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. on Saturday.