Written by Sophie Trist
On Saturday, June 1, 2019, the inaugural Arts & Hearts 5K was held in beautiful Audubon Park, presented by Varsity Sports. All proceeds were dedicated to Covenant House to provide unconditional love and holistic care to our community’s most vulnerable youth. As part of our wellness program, volunteer coaches came to Covenant House twice weekly over the month leading up to the race, helping train dozens of our young residents. Participating youth were treated with athletic gear, generously provided by Varsity Sports and over twenty individual sponsors.
This special event would not have been possible if not for event chairs Susan Opelka & Julie Slick, as well as the generous support of local artists, businesses, and donors. Post-race food and concessions were donated by Louisiana Pizza Kitchen and Luzianne Iced Tea. Grace Pilates & Yoga offered post-race stretching and meditation. More support came from Louisiana Running & Walking Company, Higher Power, and Chuck George with New Orleans Running & Walking Systems. Handmade pottery medals and prizes were crafted and donated by local artisans.
One of our young people, nineteen-year-old Jakiya, took home the second place medal, running the 5K in nineteen minutes and five seconds! A graduate of West Jefferson High School, Jakiya was a star on the track team and won several awards in long-distance running. Even so, he was stunned by his second place in finish in the race. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I felt great about myself.”
After his mother passed away in 2015, Jakiya says he really took his running to the next level. “It made me feel motivated, kept me focused. Whenever I run, I feel free. I feel like I’m speaking out, expressing myself,” he said.
Jakiya is going places, in more ways than just crossing a finish line. With the help of Covenant House staff, he created a recruitment file with his running stats and applied to several colleges. He recently received a four-year track scholarship from Waldorf University in Forest City, Iowa. Although Jakiya doesn’t know a soul in Iowa, the coach and track team at Waldorf have reached out to him by phone and email, and he can’t wait to begin his new adventure in August.
Jakiya attributes his success to his grandparents and the strong, loving community he found at Covenant House. “I love my grandparents and still talk to them, but they just couldn’t take care of me after my mom died. Covenant House is the best place for me to be right now, but I couldn’t do it without them,” he said.
At Covenant House, we love to see our kids pursue their passions and see their dreams come true. We wish Jakiya the best of luck in this next chapter of his life in Iowa, and we know that if our community continues to come together and support our kids with events like the Arts & Hearts 5K, we will be able to offer a brighter future for all of our young people.