By LINDA HICKS
Dressed in running shoes and shorts, Vilonia School District officials are teaching outside the classroom.
The Fifth Grade Running Club kicked off, last week, with about 80 students. The students stretched, walked and ran but they weren’t alone. They were joined by a handful of teachers, staff and Superintendent David Stephens.
Teacher Tambrey Kinley, who heads up the club, introduced Stephens as a special guest. Otherwise, students may not have recognized him. Instead of his traditional suit, Stephens was wearing running gear. While warming up with stretches, he told the students he began running after the birth of his children.
He said he wanted to be healthy so he would, hopefully, have more time to be with them. During past years, he said, he has run 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and a triathlon. In the past year or so, he said he hasn’t run as much but intends to get back into it.
“I encourage you to get into running and walking,” Stephens said. “This is something you can take with you the rest of your life.”
John Allison, high school teacher and track coach, was also on hand.
As a young man, he said, he played football and enjoyed it, but now, he said, running is the only sport that he can participate in. Running grows on you, he said.
He encouraged the students to persevere through the first stages of running to the stage where it becomes easier and a “good and healthy habit.” He said he has run 25 marathons in the past four years including seven this year.
He said he really didn’t run much until about four years ago. At a friend’s suggestion, he said, he began to run to honor the memory of his daughter Amanda Marie Allison who was shot and killed at a party on Jan. 15, 2011. There was alcohol and drugs at the party, Allison told the fifth graders. She was a victim, he said, at the hand of another.
“Now I run, speak, and do everything I can to raise awareness of the unseen dangers of teen substance abuse,” Allison said. He encouraged the students to not put themselves in a position where alcohol or drugs are present.
A sign on his shirt says “Running with Amanda.” The sign, he said, allows him to tell the story of Amanda everywhere he goes.
This is the second year for the club at the school. In addition to promoting good health, Kinley said, “It was an idea to bond with kids outside the classroom and show them we care about them.”
School officials, she said, see students struggle in and out of the classroom and wanted a time to really get to know them.
“My dream was to create an atmosphere of love and respect between students and teachers,” Kinley said. “We want them to know how much we care.”