Meet the Runner: Sierra Sidwell
October 3, 2016
Being a kid is tough. It always has been. Sierra Sidwell, a grade 10 student at the Streetfront Alternative Program knows all about that.
Sierra’s sitting behind the Streetfront portable, on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon. The garden is starting to fade into its fall colours. The sunflowers are starting to droop and the tomato plants are drying up. She came to Streetfront half way through last school year. She was kicked out of her last school for skipping school and past suspensions. She had little interest in applying herself. She felt school for her was a lost cause, “I started waking up at 9, 10 maybe even noon. I didn’t care that I was skipping those classes. I wasn’t getting out of them anyways. I was so unhappy and unmotivated. It was better for me not to be at school, even though I knew that wasn’t a good decision for my future.”
Sierra speaks about her dissatisfaction with that time in her life with such clarity and thoughtfulness. She tells a story of a young woman whose identity was slowly eroding from her. “I had to hide who I really was. The person I am wasn’t welcomed in my previous school. If I were to survive, I would have had to totally hide my personality. Eventually, I started hiding my personality even from myself. That’s when I knew I was getting into something really deep and I needed to make a big change,” Sierra explains as the sun starts to tilt towards the west.
Moving schools is a traumatic event in a teenager’s life. Life is so precious when you are a teenager. Every move seems magnified beyond belief. Things are so intense and personal. Sierra’s impending move to Streetfront was met with extreme trepidation. Like so many other students, Sierra thought going to an alternative program was a definite step down, “I thought an alternative program was either for really bad kids or kids who weren’t smart enough for regular high school. If I went to Streetfront, what were my friends going to think?”
Sierra attended Strathcona Elementary and a few Strath kids were attending Streetfront, so that first day was a bit softer than she expected. “I was totally nervous, but I thought that if I could just find those kids I already knew, maybe I’d fit in better,” Sierra comments. Things turned out better than she ever expected, “I never thought I’d be accepted so quickly. Literally, after the first couple of hours I felt like I could relax and actually be the person I am.” Her eyes are darting all over the place as she tells me more, “I didn’t have to plan on how I’d play my entire day out. Before, I had to think about every move and calculate this interaction and how I was going to talk to this person. At Streetfront, I knew I’d be accepted and appreciated for who I was.”
Sierra never expected the runs to become such an integral part of her life. “I can honestly say I never believed I would love running so much. At my old school I don’t think I did a single lap of our school run without stopping,” Sierra recalls. “I heard the other kids say how easy running gets and how much they get out of it, but I kind of thought that was bull. But once I finished my first 10 km (on her 1st run), something was different. It was hard but I was so proud of myself. I ran basically 10’s ever since and I love how the runs make me feel. I’m totally zenned out when I run, it’s just myself and my thoughts.”
Sierra credits the running program with giving her goals and aspirations that were never present in her life before. “The Vancouver Half-Marathon was my initial goal. I trained really hard but I was so nervous before the race. I got to the start line and started believing that I was in over my head. What got me through was that they kept telling me I was tough enough to do it and I trusted them,” reminisces Sierra. “Once I was on the course, I’ve never felt more in control. At 2 km I knew I was going to finish. In some ways it was the easiest run I’ve ever had,” beams Sierra.
Sierra credits the drive and commitment she’s learned at Streetfront with changing other parts of her life, “I really started doing well in class. I think my final report card was almost all high B’s with some A’s. I also went out and got a job at Tacofino. I’ve been working there for 5 months now. I also attended every single Street2Peak training hike this summer. Sometimes I had to just stay awake all night just to make sure I never missed the hike. I can’t believe I go to a school where if I do my part and work really hard, I get to go to Patagonia. Who get’s to do that? If I was at my old school, I might’ve got to Science World,” laughs Sierra.
Sierra is adamant that she will follow Jesse Costucci-Phillips lead and become only the second Streetfront female student to run a full marathon. “There’s no way I’m not going to run the full in Seattle. It’s a done deal. I am more focused on that goal than anything I’ve ever done,” admits Sierra with a big, confident smile.
As you can tell, Sierra is an impressive kid. I believe that she will accomplish all of her goals. As her story unfolds, I sit back and think, “As glad as she is that she found Streetfront, I’m pretty sure Streetfront is probably even more grateful she and others like her, came to their school.”