The Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation running based mentoring program is one of three programs selected as recipients of the 2020 Outstanding Program Awards for Oklahoma School Foundations presented by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its Oklahoma School Foundations Network.

The awards recognize innovative programs sponsored or administered by public school foundations in Oklahoma. Receiving plaques and monetary awards of $1,000 each will be the Bruins on the Run student mentoring and running program sponsored by the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation, the Teacher Pipeline Program sponsored by the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Picnic in the Park feeding program sponsored by the Weatherford Public Schools Foundation.

“We are honoring these programs for their creativity and the positive impact they have in supporting academic excellence in their communities,” said Katy Leffel, director of the Oklahoma School Foundations Network. “In addition, program award winners will present a free webinar on Oct. 30 to share their programs so other school foundations might emulate or adapt these ideas in their own school districts.”

The Bartlesville Public School District’s desire to increase student focus in the classroom, improve relationships between students and teacher-mentors, encourage a healthy lifestyle, increase student collaboration and friendships and provide a no-cost after school program were the driving factors that led the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation to start the Bruins on the Run mentoring program.

Bruins on the Run is a free after school club that meets three times a week for fifth-grade students to run with teacher mentors and near peer mentors from the middle and high school. Student participants receive a quality pair of running shoes and t-shirt to eliminate the financial barriers to participate and are provided with healthy snacks at each club meeting. In addition to running, each meeting sets aside time for participants to work with teacher-mentors on setting goals, overcoming training obstacles, and building relationships.

 “The running component is merely the vehicle used to connect with students,” said foundation executive director Blair Ellis. “Mentors are trained to engage with their students before, after, and during the runs. They model behavior beneficial to a classroom environment, like supporting and collaborating with peers, being determined and maintaining a positive attitude.”

After a successful first season with 30 students and 12 mentors participating from two elementary schools, the program was expanded last year to include all six elementary schools, serving 87 students with 48 teacher-mentors. Though the program is on pause this fall due to the pandemic, the foundation is excited to get started again as soon as it is safe.