Bob Williams, a probation officer with the Office of Juvenile Affairs in Washington County, tells us about a unique partnership that puts delinquent and at-risk youth on a path toward a healthier lifestyle.
Q & A
Q: What is Run the Streets (RTS)?
A: Run the Streets is a mentoring program in Bartlesville that uses distance running as a vehicle for change with delinquent and at-risk youth. Each season, approximately 75 youth train side-by-side with their mentors over the course of 12 weeks to run a half marathon.
Q: Sounds awesome! How did you develop this idea?
A: Bob Williams is a probation officer with the Office of Juvenile Affairs in Washington County, and a runner. In 2006, Bob read an article in Runner’s World Magazine about the Students Run Los Angeles program. He adapted the idea as an alternative to the traditional probation model, and approached the Court, District Attorney’s Office, and OJA to get approval. Bob wrote grants to get United Way Funding to start the program and worked out partnerships with community partners.
Q: How much does the program cost?
A: RTS raises all funds from scratch (no grants or UW funding) and provides the program at no cost to youth. Youth receive shoes, running gear, race fees, transportation, parties, and rewards as a result of their participation. We recruit and maintain 35 to 40 mentors each season who commit to a training schedule of three days a week for 12 weeks. More than 800 youth have finished a half marathon with RTS since 2009 and logged over 100,000 miles run. RTS raises approximately $80,000 each year and we spend approximately $70,000.
Q: Wow, that’s impressive – how much staff time or volunteer effort does it take to run RTS?
A: We have one paid, part-time coordinator and everything else is handled by volunteers. The startup and early operation of the program required hundreds of hours of work, but today RTS runs smoothly with our coordinator and volunteers.
Q: Where are you planning to take this idea in the future?
A: We have a smooth running program and have had a great deal of success. We would like to franchise (not for profit) the program around the country so that more communities can replicate our success.
Q: Is there anything you would do differently?
A: We’ve enjoyed helping many other similar programs get started around the country. However, had we been able to franchise the program early on and require other programs to follow a blueprint of our model, we feel many of those programs would be more successful.
Q: What has the program achieved to date?
A: Run the Streets has seen over 150 youth complete their probation by finishing a half marathon.
For more information
Visit the program’s site http://runthestreets.org/ or contact Bob Williams, Run the Streets Program Developer, here. You can also hear Bob speak at the Youth Empowerment breakout at the Oklahoma Turning Point Council (OTPC) conference August 30 – 31, 2017 where he will be sharing his experience with Run the Streets.