5K event raises money for Roosevelt Middle School program 

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After attending a professional development workshop for teachers, Felix Linden Jr. was inspired to help create Oklahoma City Public Schools’ first leadership academy.

The following fall, the Roosevelt Middle School English teacher launched an afterschool academy to promote academic excellence, leading directly to college and career readiness. Now in its fourth year, the Roosevelt Leadership Academy preps sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders for their futures.

“We talk about the choices they can make after school, how to overcome obstacles and become a leader at a young age,” Linden told Oklahoma Gazette. “We are equipping the kids with the tools necessary to be successful.”

Linden’s motivation for the academy comes from his own experience in Oklahoma City Public Schools. A graduate of Star Spencer High School, Linden said he lacked key soft skills upon his arrival at Oklahoma State University.

As the academy evolved, Linden looked for opportunities for students to give back to the community. During a summer 2015 dinner meeting, students proposed hosting a run and walk event to benefit the academy. The student-driven idea hooked Linden, a runner who was unfamiliar with any such events on Oklahoma City’s south side.

With the support of Capitol Hill leaders, the Fiestas 5K was added to the event lineup for the annual Fiestas de Las Americas in 2015. Nearly 200 participants crossed the finish line on SW 25th Street as students cheered and handed out medals. As a leadership project, students worked closely with event sponsors, crafted event fliers and volunteered along the race route.

“We saw what this could be for our community, which was people coming together for something positive,” Linden said.

Students from U.S. Grant High School, Santa Fe South Schools and Edmond Public Schools participated in the run through Capitol Hill. “That’s what it turned into,” Linden said.

The Fiestas 5K kicks off the 11th annual celebration of Fiestas de Las Americas on Oct. 1. Hosted by the Calle Dos Cinco business improvement district in Historic Capitol Hill, the all-day event includes a parade, artist market, food court and children’s area with inflatables, games and crafts.

The 5K begins at 7 a.m., followed by the one-mile fun run at 7:30 a.m. Run proceeds benefit Roosevelt Leadership Academy and the U.S. Grant cross-country team. This year, leadership students partnered with a nearby school to organize the event. Team leaders Juan Trujillo and Fernando Gonzalez accompany Linden to Fiestas de Las Americas committee meetings. The team heavily promotes the run to U.S Grant students and staff. In return, the team receives half of the proceeds. In the coming years, the leadership students will reach out to nearby Santa Fe South and Capitol Hill high schools for collaboration.

“The funds we raise are vital to our cross-country team because we have no money in our account due to the budget cuts,” said Trujillo, a former student of Linden.

“This year will likely be the second time in 13 years that U.S. Grant’s cross-country team qualifies for the state meet,” Trujillo said. “Inner-city schools are always doubted and underrated because of stereotypes. We have already proven them wrong.”

For Roosevelt, funds go toward expenses, including transportation to colleges for tours. This year, Linden hopes to take the students to a regional university like Tahlequah’s Northeastern State University or Weatherford’s Southwestern Oklahoma State University.

The lesson students take away from the run is less about the dollar amount raised and more centered on community service, Linden said. He hopes the event spurs a lifetime of community involvement.

“You don’t need a million dollars to give. You can give your time,” Linden said. “Essentially, that’s what I am teaching the kids.”

It is a lesson that already resonates with Trujillo, who graduates this spring and aspires to earn either a biochemical or biomedical engineering degree.

“My long-term goal is to give back to the people and places who have helped me grow as a person and helped me gain my education,” Trujillo said. “This is a city I will forever call home.”

"Print Headline"; Service exposure, South OKC middle and high school students gain valuable community service lessons through Fiestas 5K.

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