André Feigler and Alex Lebow

Youth Run NOLA

Cheryl Gerber Photographs

Using running as a medium, Youth Run NOLA empowers underserved youth in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. After training for several months, most students run the Crescent City Classic 10K, and some even go on to complete the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Such mileage is impressive at any age, but founder André Feigler and co-founder Alex Lebow are quick to note that the program is more about providing students with character development and strong leadership skills. YRNOLA focuses on providing children with a safe, structured space to succeed.  

A teacher in St. Bernard parish, Feigler saw a need for after-school programs for her children at the same time she developed a personal interest in health and running. When she trained for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, she opted to run in the neighborhood around her school after class. Combining her love for teaching and running, she encouraged her students to join in her training.

Later, she teamed up with Lebow to turn her informal after-school group into a structured training program. A labor of love, time and volunteer help, YRNOLA immediately began to change the lives of students and volunteers alike. YRNOLA seeks to reinforce the mindsets and values put forth by teachers by extending these values beyond the classroom. YRNOLA’s leadership team has a combined 19 years of teaching experience.

Louisiana has a problem with inactivity, and after school is a time when some students get into mischief. YRNOLA addresses these problems and has already had many successes. Fifteen students have completed the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, a distance of 13.1 miles. Because less than 1 percent of persons who complete a half-marathon are under the age of 15, this is a great accomplishment. The students learn how to tackle a large goal so that they can apply these skills to future endeavors. Furthermore, each student is paired with a volunteer running buddy to increase positive socialization. Many of the “buddies” are also running the 13.1 miles for the first time as well, thereby forging a strong bond of shared experience.

Through YRNOLA, individual students learn a commitment to healthy and positive choices. They learn great goal-setting lessons on the track that enable them to tackle many difficult situations at home and school. With increased confidence from YRNOLA, some of the students now have plans to become teachers or doctors.

In fact, Feigler and Lebow were so impressed with the efforts, attitudes and abilities of the 127 students from the past session that they want to increase participation to 215 students this year.

YRNOLA is less about the miles that students log and more about the goal-setting skills they learn that last a lifetime.

YRNOLA is in need of volunteers. Interested persons may sponsor a runner ($700 per year), train with a child as a running buddy or hand out water at the races; visit yrnola.org or email info@yrnola.org to learn more.

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