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In Amanda’s Words: What the Running Club Means to Me

In 2017, VPD Detective Mariya Zhalovaga, formerly the Student Liaison Officer at Windermere Secondary School in East Vancouver, saw a need to provide high school students with a sense of community and purpose, while also supporting their mental and physical health. As a result, she felt compelled to launch the student Running Club, and with support from the Vancouver Police Foundation and our donors, Mariya has continued to lead this impactful program with great success for the last seven years.

One of the long-standing Running Club participants is Amanda Tom. Amanda has been part of the student Running Club since she was in grade seven at Renfrew Elementary. Currently a grade 11 student at Windermere Secondary School in East Vancouver, she was first introduced to the Running Club when she was still in elementary school through the mentorship aspect of the program, where high school students from Windermere Secondary would mentor grade seven students at feeder schools in order to make their eventual transition to high school easier.

We recently learned from Amanda just how impactful Mariya’s Running Club has been in her life. She generously shared her story with us, and today we are grateful to have the opportunity to share Amanda’s story with you:

“The Running Club has been a significant part of my life for five years now. My journey with the club began in grade seven as part of a mentorship program with Windermere Secondary School. At first, being surrounded by so many older students was intimidating. I was quiet and kept to myself.

“When I got to high school, I resumed my journey with the Running Club. The group became a safe place for me. It was incredibly welcoming and everyone was always friendly. Though this club promoted physical health by being active several times a week, it also provided countless opportunities for personal growth. I became more comfortable talking to new people and began to branch out because of the welcoming environment Detective Zhalovaga had created.


“After she left the school, we wanted to keep the club going. It was such a significant part of our lives and we did not want to lose our running family. Detective Zhalovaga had asked me to help lead the club along with two others. I had never expected to be asked to do this and did not know what I was doing or how she chose me to do it.

“After leading the Running Club with two others for a year, they eventually graduated high school, leaving the responsibility to me. It was not long before I took on roles such as leading stretches, planning running routes, recording attendance, and sending out emails to communicate with club members. I even contributed to planning our destination marathon trip to Victoria. Everything that I thought I would never be able to do, I did.

“Last year, I successfully planned a school-wide run, sponsored by RunVan, that included over 700 students. Without the encouragement of Detective Zhalovaga and the club, I never would have been able to execute such an ambitious plan. I was constantly stepping out of my comfort zone, seeing what new things I could bring to my school and this group that I had come to care about so much. I am so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to join this group by Detective Zhalovaga early on.

“Looking back, I realize I have grown into a person I never thought I could become. This club has taught me the importance of perseverance through our long-distance running training. I have also learned the importance of patience, encouragement, and support as I am now one of the older students who cheers others on during our runs.

“I am now a mentor, someone who I would have looked up to several years ago. I have learned how to be confident and work with others to achieve things I never imagined possible.


“This club is more than just a running club. This community has profoundly shaped my identity and outlook on life. I am now someone my younger self aspired to be, someone I am immensely proud of.



“As I look forward to the future of our club, I see my younger self in others coming up behind me who have also had the opportunity to grow with this unique group. I am confident the club will be in good hands after I graduate next year, seeing how it has become part of them just as it became a part of me.”


– Amanda Tom
Grade 11, Windermere Secondary School




The Vancouver Police Foundation supports programs and initiatives that fall under one of four pillars: Youth Programs, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Outreach & Engagement, and Technology & Special Equipment. You can help build a safer Vancouver by donating to the Vancouver Police Foundation.

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