Teens Run DC (TRDC) is helping at-risk young people meet life and fitness goals through a school-linked running program that matches adult long-distance runners with community teenagers. Over the course of a year, the students improve their health, emotional and behavioral well-being, and self-confidence as they train for progressively longer races.
Teens Run DC began as a pilot project launched in 2009 by Washington psychologist Ben Foreman, who along with several volunteer runners worked with 19 students in a local high school. In the fall of 2010, TRDC expanded into a second school, involving a total of 32 students, 22 running mentors and seven teachers. In 2010 Teens Run DC began collaborating with Olga Acosta Price, director of the Center for Health & Health Care in Schools and faculty member at GW’s School of Public Health and Health Services for help with program development and developing the evaluation program.
The initial pilot study, that included 20 participants (45% male, 55% female) aged 14 to 17 years, found that TRDC positively influences students’ emotional, social, and behavioral functioning. Participants report significantly higher levels of self-efficacy, (i.e., confidence in one’s ability to set and attain goals) over the course of 4-5 months. The program attracted students with significant vulnerabilities, as evidenced by initial assessment scores revealing higher than average symptoms of depression. As the program continues, research will continue to track the impact of the program on student well-being. Future research will explore developing strategies that strengthen the mentor-mentee relationship, understanding the aspects of mentoring that lead to program adherence, and identifying the long-term impacts of engaging in a healthier lifestyle.