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Over the past few weeks, a string of heart-wrenching suicides by bullied LGBT youth has shocked the country — and shone a national spotlight on the need to address the mental health and self-worth of young people who are marginalized and vulnerable.

As we told you in August, Schweitzer Fellows Ashley Roberts and Anne Sutkowi recently launched STRIDES, a running-focused program in Los Angeles that does exactly that (and that will culminate in the STRIDES 5K Run/Walk on Nov. 21st — register here).

And the community is paying attention. On Saturday, the Santa Monica Daily Press ran a feature on Roberts, Sutkowi, and STRIDES, writing that the program’s  “goal is to give kids at risk of falling into bad habits that can eventually lead to suicide new strategies for dealing with stress and depression”:

“We hope that this program will bridge that gap that seems to exist in most high school health classes that focus on physical health but don’t incorporate mental health as much,” Roberts said.

The UCLA Daily Bruin also ran a terrific feature on STRIDES:

Olympic High School junior Kia Walker said the activities inspire her to set goals and change her lifestyle. Walker, who had never run or jogged prior to the health class, now aspires to finish the entire STRIDES 5K Run/Walk in November.

“I get to jog, and I get to be outside, and I feel pretty good after each jog,” Walker said. “I hope to be a little more healthier after this.”

Roberts said while she was originally intimidated by the students, her ability to eventually win their trust and appreciation allowed her to see the impact of persistence and optimism in their lives.

“These are tough kids to win their respect,” she said. “Having some who have gotten so far in such a short time is rewarding. We had a student come in the second week, who said, ‘This is the reason why I love coming to health class on Mondays and Fridays.’”

You can also check out the Santa Monica Mirror‘s coverage here.

Remember to register here for the STRIDES 5K Run/Walk on Nov. 21!

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