Those passing by Wakefield Elementary Friday afternoon probably saw students in green shirts running around the school with three words in big, yellow letters on their backs: Be the Motivation.
These students are part of the Wakefield Elementary Love in Action club and those three words embody the club’s mission of promoting physical and mental empowerment.
“We are positive and cheer each other up and don’t give up. We help others and make them feel like they are not alone,” said Katheryn Gutierrez, a second grade runner in the club.
One lap around the Wakefield campus equals one half mile and many students built up their endurance over the school year and can now run three miles, or six laps. The Love in Action club was founded by Wakefield teacher and mentor Maria Montejano who wanted to bring her family’s proactive approach to fitness to the students at her school.
“A lot of our kids have not been exposed to sports at an early age so when they get to junior high and high school, a lot of them are too shy or it’s too late for them to try out for sports. I want them to have that opportunity,” said Montejano.
With the help of her husband and several parents of the Parent Teacher Association, the Love in Action club has grown over the past two years. More than running after school, the Love in Action team runners actually compete in races in the area and this weekend will participate in the Modesto Memorial Classic 5k and one mile runs, their seventh race this year.
“Ever since my daughter joined her health has improved,” said Jose Luis Gutierrez, father of Katheryn Gutierrez. “She used to get a cough each year and that’s gone away. The doctor said it’s good for her to exercise and that’s why we took interest in this.”
While the club has benefited the local students and their families, many community members have also made financial contributions to Love in Action to finance things like race entry fees, including: Ramsin Davoud Family Dentistry, iCAN Triathlon Club, Active Orthopedic, Allstate, All Home Construction, Taquerias San Jose, Victor’s Healing Body, Mariachis Bar &Grill, Tennis Amp –It-Up Premier, Turlock Chiropractic Center, Marisol Alvarez, the Miramontes family, Lynn Padlo, the Mondragon Family and Raman Randhawa.
While the club has served to contribute to the students’ overall health and wellness, it has also boosted their self esteem and self confidence as well as improvement in their academic studies.
“Initially, students came to the club who were extremely shy in Speech classes and wouldn’t even speak. Now, they are outspoken, speaking with their teammates and it has just made an overall difference for them in the classroom,” said Montejano.