November 2, 2021

Vista Unified School Builds Happy, Healthy Students Through Run Club

Hyun Young, Teacher at Casita Center Elementary School, Vista Unified School District


The story of the Casita Mileage Club began when I attended a wellness meeting of Vista Unified School District teachers and staff hosted by the district nutrition coordinator, Amy Hassely, back in 2015. ‘Casita’ refers to the Casita Center for Technology, Science & Math, an IB certified elementary school where I work as a teacher. Since that first meeting, our running club has grown into a successful program enjoyed by over 60% of the students on campus!

Even though there was no district mandate to start the program, I was inspired by what I heard at the wellness meeting. I wanted to do something to help kids build healthy habits and improve their overall wellness. One of the meeting attendees mentioned that she had a program like this at her school and I started to ask questions to figure out how I can do the same at my school.

The planning for this club started with uncertainty - What is this Mileage Club? Can I do this at my school? Where do I even begin? With no experience leading a school running program and no budget, I was able to build a successful program with the support of the students, parents, and staff at my school.

Casita Mileage Club is a program where kids from all grade levels are welcomed to participate in running and walking together. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, the team blasts happy music that helps the students to stay motivated and to run and walk as much as they can in 20 minutes. This year’s Mileage Club looks very different because of COVID-19. Students in different grades and classrooms are not able to mix quite yet. However, we have asked for support from 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teachers to encourage their students to run at least once a week for 20-30 minutes and to continue to log their mileage into a program called Student Lap Tracker.

During the first few weeks of the program back in 2015, there were only a few students who showed up. We worried whether the club would make it or not, but the students that came were persistent and so were the parents who volunteered. By the end of the first month, 81 kids were involved. In our first year of running program, we had over 100 students participating.

Since that time, the program has grown tremendously. Students were pumped to run and walk with their friends every Tuesday and Thursday morning and were excited to celebrate at the end of each year with our very fun Color Run. In early 2020, before the pandemic hit, we had 344 runners participating in the program - that’s more than 60% of the students on campus!

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I could lead a program like this, but if this sounds like something you would like to start at your school, believe me – you can do it!

Casita Mileage Club has been fortunate to have great support from parents, school PTA, and the community. One community connection that the program is grateful for is with Kathy Kinane from Move Your Feet Foundation, who currently sponsors our running management system (Student Lap Tracker). If you are a school located in North County area who is interested in a running program, reach out to Move Your Feet Foundation and ask about their Miles of Smiles Program.

We are hoping that we will be able to offer Mileage Club again soon to all the students on campus and are looking forward to seeing happy, smiling kids running and walking with their friends and building healthy habits day by day!

Here’s to a happy healthy school year everyone!