Even before I worked for Wings of America, the organization was close to my heart. Growing up in Gallup, NM in the mid 90's, Wings runners (in their highlighter green 'Zoom Talarias') were my idols. I wanted nothing more than to run at the front of the pack like them. Eventually I would make two Wings National Teams in 2006 and 2007. Had it not been for these chances to "run with the big dogs" for spots on Junior Team USA, I probably never would have received the attention from college coaches I so desperately needed. So after making my way to Columbia University to run cross country and track (and study anthropology), I returned to New Mexico each summer to work for Wings. If the organization made if possible for me to be an "Ivy Leaguer", why shouldn't the same be true for the youth I mentored at Running & Fitness Camps?
After graduating summa cum laude in 2011, I planned to live the life of a starving artist in NYC while I got my clothing company (S.O.L.O.) up and running. But it wasn't meant to be. While I was on the phone trying to sign a lease on an apartment I probably couldn't afford, Wings' co-founder, Will Channing, gave me a call to let me know that then Program Director, Shaun Martin, had just stepped down. He recommended me for the job. I bought a car from a close friend and drove back to New Mexico to continue giving back to Wings.
Today I have been promoted to Executive Director. Over the last 6+ years I have watched Wings runners continue to thrive and prove to the world that Native youth are far more than the statistics journalists like to attach to them. When Wings was invited to Boston in 2016 to celebrate the legacy of Ellison "Tarzan" Brown and other Native champions of the Boston Marathon I was lucky enough to receive a bib to run my debut marathon: 2:36.08. I still have nearly 3 minutes to shave off if I want to acheive my goal of matching Tarzan's 1936 winning time.
After the celebration in 2016, I went to the Boston Athletic Association and Harvard University to ask "what next?" I had an idea to use Marathon weekend to expose Native high school students not only to the joys of Boston- but to the realities of applying and attending college. Thus the "Pursuit Program" was born! The B.A.A. agreed to give us charity bibs to raise money for the students' trip and Harvard agreed to help us teach them about the process of going to college. Please join me in supporting the second round of these deserving students as my teammates and I train hard to pay homage to the legacy of Native distance runners that came before us!
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