A number of students in the Monessen School District participated in the recent Pittsburgh Marathon 5K, and they were not alone.
The 19 students, in grades six through 12, were joined by teachers and parents, and even a grandparent at the April 30 event. In all, the group totaled 36 people.
Stephanie Guglielmi, a sixth-grade English language arts teacher, said this is the fourth time she has taken students to Pittsburgh to run/walk the 3.1 miles.
"I think it's important, especially after the pandemic, to get these kids out and moving," Guglielmi said. "They spend a lot of time behind their technology and this is a way to reintroduce them to a healthy lifestyle."
Their participation was funded by a $500 grant through the district's Kids of Steel, a youth introductory running program that helps motivate children and their families to lead healthy and active lifestyles.
Guglielmi has run the Pittsburgh Marathon in the past, which spurred the idea of having students take part in the 5K.
"Seeing other people bring students and young adults to participate, I was inspired to the same with students in my classroom," she said.
The students did train. Guglielmi said they stayed after school once a week to practice, but it seemed the kids enjoyed being in Pittsburgh a bit more than the school track. They enjoyed the scenery and hearing people yell words of encouragement.
Two other teachers participated – Jen Cicchini, life skills teacher, and art teacher Valarie Weible, as well as school Director Marc Bellora.
Sami Shawley's son, Colton, was one of the students who took part. So she and her husband, Clint, joined the sixth-grader in participating.
"We just wanted to help jumpstart some healthy activities," she said. "We wanted to be involved in some physical activity out there. It was a very nice event and we were happy to be a part of it."
She said the three of them enjoyed walking in downtown Pittsburgh and taking in what the city has to offer.
"We don't utilize Pittsburgh as much as we should," Shawley said. "We got to rubberneck and check out the tall buildings and all of the things you usually don't get to see on foot patrol regularly."
One family had three generations take part in the 5K – seventh-grader Jocelyn Macz, 13, her mother Amanda, 38, and her grandmother, Janet Brashear, 57.
"This was one of those things in which we could participate together," Amanda Macz said. "Whenever the teacher reached out and said everybody could do it, me and my mother jumped on it. We just like doing things with my daughter. It was just something fun to do."
She said Jocelyn loved being in the 5K.
"She actually really enjoyed it," Amanda Macz said. "It was very enjoyable for the kids. You could tell they really had fun."
It turned out to be a bonding exercise for those students who participated. Of course, some were faster than others, but those students waited at the finish line for the others to complete the race.
"The students that finished earlier stood there and cheered on their peers as they finished and they helped hand them their medals and their water," Guglielmi said. "It was quite a community-building experience for the kids and for us as well. It was nice to see the kids working together like that."
Shawley said Colton, 12, enjoyed taking part in the 5K and would love to do it again next year and bring a friend.
Guglielmi said that was the feeling of many who participated.
"From what I hear, all of the students want to do it again next year and they all asked if they could bring their friends," she said. "I'm hoping to grow the group from 36 people to maybe 50 people next year."