What makes a good leader? Here at GSW this is a question we are daily confronted with as we train and mentor our students to become positive contributors in their communities. Last years Program Managers select a few gifted young girls to hold leadership roles within our organization.
One of these girls is Paula Daniela Calsina. She attended Los Nogales 6th grade and is now in secondary school. She has come to several classes and acted as a student teacher for her younger peers as well as a teacher’s aid to Kat and . On her own initiative Kat and I have seen Paula grow from a shy girl who led when told what to do to a proactive and confident mentor who vocally encourage or instruct her younger peers.
Last December we presented a crazy idea to her: to train to run 10km in the on behalf of GSW in Lima
Why this idea crazy? It crazy because Paula never had the opportunity to train for an athletic goal before. She lives 10 minutes from the airport and yet has never set foot on a plane. She ha only left Cusco once in her 14 years of life. No other young girls in her neighborhood have ever trained for such an event. Paula our challenge and we set to work raising the money to buy her plane tickets, entrance fee, and Lima food and transportation costs.
In March, after returning from summer vacation, the three of us set to work on our race day training plans. Paula would represent GSW in the 10km, Kat in the 21 km, and I in the 42 km. Because Paula had never trained before it was essential that we guide her in the process with her several times before the race go over how her personal running schedule was going. Through the weeks before race day Paula’s training morphed from a personal endeavor into community one. Younger girls fromGSW would ask to come and watch her train and even running a few sprints along with her. Paula’s mom began waking up at 5:30am with her to train several times a week and her siblings took part in encouraging her to stay on track.
As race day approached the nerves increased, but Paula remained composed and focused like any good leader and athlete. She came to Los Nogales a week before heading to Lima and challenged the girls that an opportunity like this one day could happen for them if they remained committed and had goals. It was a powerful and special moment for GSW and the legacy we are all beginning to glimpse in the changed lives of Cusquea girls.
On May 16th Kat, Paula, Paula’s mom and I all took off to Lima. For both Paula and her mom this was an exhausting and new cultural experience. They could not stop commenting on how much traffic there was and how pretty the beach was. Thanks to many friends in Lima Paula and her mom were completely taken care of in regards to hospitality and food.
On Sunday morning, May 18th, the race was finally upon us. Everyone was nervous. Kat and I started our runs at 7:00am while Paula did not run until 8:00am. A good friend who ran with Paula toldexperienced a lot of pre-race nerves and at the sound of the starting gun took off sprinting. She was soon overcome by exhaustion, but with the help of this friend together they crossed the finish line after a solid 1:05:32 of running! he did such a great job!
It is difficult to measure the impact we have in the lives of our students. How did today’s lesson change their perspective on their confidence? How did this field trip open up their world view? How did this sports class teach them what it means to work hard?
With each returning smile, weekly hug, and consistent student however, we are shown examples of lives that are impacted. And then there is Paula, a young girl, who with a little prodding from Program Managers is blossoming into a young leader who has the potential to change the direction of her future and the futures of her peers.