SRLA Volunteers Go the Extra Mile for Underrepresented Students

In Honda’s 23rd year of support for Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA), the company launched a mentorship program leading up to the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon to deepen the connection between associates and local SRLA students and help bridge the gap between high school and college.

American Honda volunteers were partnered with students from Phineas Banning High School in Wilmington, California, not only helping the students train for the 26-mile LA Marathon, but also encouraging them to reach other life goals.

Honda has supported SRLA’s mission since 1997 to help underserved secondary students achieve their full potential through healthier lifestyles and higher education, contributing more than $2 million to the community organization. Despite the challenges faced by the pandemic this year, 98% of SRLA seniors graduated high school and 91% plan to attend college, of which 75% will be the 1st generation in their family to do so.

“I wish there was a program like this when I was a kid,” AHM associate Melly Ramirez said. Ramirez participated as a mentor and the “Run Them In” program, where volunteers gather at Mile 22 of the race to provide encouragement to SRLA students and help struggling students complete the last 4.2 miles of the race alongside them.

“What keeps me coming back is the gratitude and satisfaction you get from helping someone complete the marathon,” she said. “It’s hard not to get overwhelmed with emotion when they are crossing the finish line because I can see a glimpse of their future and what else they can do.” 

All of the participating 39 Phineas Banning High School SRLA students completed the marathon. With the exception of a few incomplete races due to injury, every single student who had trouble towards the end of the race was paired with an SRLA volunteer to reach the finish line, resulting in 99.5% completion for the entire roster of 2,690 students.

Honda volunteers for the mentorship program worked with the students from Phineas Banning High School on training runs leading up to the marathon, including an 18-mile run in February that students needed to complete under a certain time to qualify for the race.

“I see myself in some of these students when I was in high school, and I wish others like myself would have had more people around back then to serve as a good example and sources of motivation,” said AHM associate Tony Cisneros. “On the last training day before the marathon, a student came up to me and said ‘I just wanted to thank you for running my last two miles with me. I ran my first two miles with you, and now I’m running my last two miles with you before the marathon.’ This is exactly what we wanted to do, and I’m glad I made a difference.”

“I’m proud to work for this company and feel that my responsibility is not just work but putting Honda’s core values into action,” he said. “The volunteer programs such as SRLA are rewarding.”

Honda Awards 2020 Power of Dreams Scholarship

In addition to associate support and mentoring, Honda also awarded five more students the Honda Power of Dreams Scholarship, funded from an endowment established in May 2019. The funds provide scholarships to support SRLA students, many of whom are the first generation in their family to attend college. The scholarship is paid out over two years, which encourages the students to stay in school.

“This scholarship program helps support the students’ dreams of higher education and elevates the Honda brand within the SRLA community in Los Angeles,” said Yuki Ikari, AHM Corporate Relations associate. Honda mentors and volunteers also had a role in evaluating student scholarship applications this year through a Virtual Volunteering opportunity.

“This process allowed reviewers to feel more engaged with these students and gave them an opportunity to learn more about SRLA’s impact,” Ikari said.

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