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The Step Up 5K: Student Empowerment on Education Row

by Kim Cuomo, on Jun 21, 2019 12:00:00 PM

“Hey, I know you guys!” We heard a lot of that Saturday morning as we caught some rays and cheered on runners in Riverside Park. Story2 was asked to be a part of “Education Row” at Student Leadership Network’s Inaugural Step Up 5K event, and boy, did we feel famous.

We’ve spent the past six months working closely with many of SLN’s schools, thanks to a generous grant from the Heckscher Foundation for Children. Members of the Class of 2020 receive an in-person launch, a StoryBuilder account and unlimited written feedback from our Story2 coaches through next year when they’re applying to college, and the educators who support these students receive a professional development workshop and access to our Moments Method curriculum. So far, the partnership has been a huge success: several SLN schools have already had 100% of students submit their personal statements, and school isn’t even out yet!

Team Story2 showed up to the 5K ready to rock. Our tent was very popular, thanks to our new swag (tote bags and water bottles) and a primo location right near the DJ booth. I can’t wait for my next school visit when I see Story2 being repped up and down the halls! We lucked out with an absolutely perfect spring day in New York—sunny with a cool breeze. The energy in the air was infectious as beach balls were thrown around and people danced to Beyoncé. Once the runners took off north along the Hudson, a few of us stayed back at the tent listening to DJ Olivia Dope spin. We figured we had about a half hour before we’d see the runners again, but within ten minutes, we started seeing runners returning. How fast did they go?! We learned that the path had been mismarked, which meant this “5K” was only a mile. Oops!

Members of the SLN community roamed the park and stopped by to say hello and show off their medals. Many of the juniors we’ve been working with were guided to our booth by their college counselors to learn more about the live online college essay bootcamps we’re hosting this summer, eager to learn how to complete an essay draft before senior year even started. Meanwhile, their senior friends were bummed this was something they didn’t have access to— in fact, seniors who missed out on Story2 may have been our best promoters! Freshman and sophomores stopped by, too, and when we asked, “So, are you thinking about college yet?” their responses varied from “I already know where I want to go!” to looks of sheer terror. The one thing we all agreed on is that it’s never too early to start! Carol Barash, our founder, CEO, and 5K team captain, signed copies of her book Write Out Loud for those young students, encouraging them to start telling stories and owning their authentic voice.

As things wound down and we packed up to leave, a young man ran over. “Excuse me, do you have any water bottles left?” he asked. We told him we’d just given out the last one. He sighed at first, but then his eyes lit up after seeing something on the table. “Wait, my college essay just has to be a story?”

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