Our teens defy the odds. While obesity and diabetes rates skyrocket in Latino and African-American populations, the Hyde Square Task Force Rookie Runners, ninth-graders in Boston Public Schools, lace up their running sneakers and hit the pavement to promote healthy urban living.
For the past three years, the Hyde Square Task Force Rookie Runners have hosted the Neighborhood 5K Run/Walk in Jamaica Plain. For the year leading up to this event, the Rookies participate in running events all Boston, and invite their neighbors to engage in physical exercise by joining them on runs through the community.
As young people of color, many of whom are immigrants or have immigrant parents, they face extraordinary challenges such as cultural alienation, lack of jobs, reduced access to green space, high rates of drug use, and a striking lack of opportunity for healthy physical activity. For example, a recent survey conducted by Wheelock College and the Boston Public Health Commission suggests that roughly 40 percent of Boston Public School students are overweight or obese, and 82 percent of high school students do not eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.
When our students enter the program, most of them avoid walking or running outside whenever they can. Many of them tell me that their parents warn them that the streets aren’t safe. Additionally, they don’t see their parents or peers exercising outside, further stigmatizing going for a casual run or walk.
We know that the vast majority of American runners are upper-middle-class and white. Statistics show the average runner has a household income of $75,000 or more (much higher than the national median income), and a high percentage (reports show between 55 and 79 percent) hold a college degree (versus the national average of approximately 30 percent).
We must encourage young people to take back their neighborhoods and practice healthy behavior. We invite the community to join myself and the Rookie Runners at our Annual Neighborhood 5K Run/Walk June 7 in making our streets safer and encouraging our youth to set a new standard. Anyone can register at hydesquare.org/events. We hope to see you there.
Rookie Runner Coordinator
Hyde Square Task Force