Running with the right crowd can make all the difference in a person's life.
For Juan Witmer, an eighth grade student at Penn Alexander School, joining Students Run Philly Style has played a central role in cultivating his identity as a leader among his family and peers. For Juan, the importance of this Sunday's Broad Street Run surpasses crossing the finish line. It signifies the daily dedication, drive and determination he exudes in his everyday life. At the Broad Street Run and all year long, Juan strives to stand out from the crowd.
Juan first learned of Students Run Philly Style, an organization focused on transforming students' lives through running and mentorship, from his school in West Philadelphia. It wasn't until Juan's parents encouraged him to join the program that he realized how much he enjoyed running.
"My children never participated in a race, or even ran before they began the Students Run Philly Style program," Juan's mother Rebecca Witmer said.
Once Juan hit his stride, his younger sister Salena, wanted to follow in her big brother's footsteps. Juan's example has inspired Salena to compete in this year's Broad Street Run. The siblings have been training for the big day with friends in the neighborhood.
"If it weren't for Students Run Philly Style, I don't think they would pursue running on their own. ]Running is a great habit you can have with you for your entire life," Rebecca said.
In addition to affecting the family's dynamic at home, Rebecca witnessed her son's self-esteem skyrocket as he became more involved with the organization.
"Students Run Philly Style enhanced Juan's confidence, and through that confidence grew leadership skills," Rebecca said. She credits his transformation to the Students Run Philly Style Summer Leadership Summit.
The Summit taught Juan the importance of hard work and staying motivated. These important attributes have carried over into Juan's academic life too.
"In order for Juan to be considered for Philadelphia public schools, he needed to interview," Rebecca explained. "The Summer Leadership Summit helped Juan understand his own personality better. He used his experience for his high school interview."
Juan will further exemplify his leadership skills as he runs along side his sister for her first Broad Street Run. The pair have been practicing their pavement pounding skills at local 5 and 10K events.
"Salena is a little nervous, though she is excited knowing that it will be a huge accomplishment once it is complete," Rebecca said. "Juan is thrilled to be participating again."
Whether it is in his social life, at home or on the trail, Juan has proven that he knows how to stand out from the pack.