Leo Westebbe

Free Running Clinic, Run Leo Run! March 31st NNHS

Leo Westebbe

Inspirational marathoner, Leo Westebbe, Newton South graduate 2011 and Charles d’Hemecourt from the Division of Sports Medicine Children’s Hospital Boston will lead a FREE running clinic for kids ages 8 and up. The clinic is prime preparation for runners of all ages and abilities in the April 15 Heartbreak Hill Road Race. Participants will learn running stretches, drills and techniques, discuss nutrition and take a practice run around the Newton North Track facility.

Saturday, March 31 at 1–3pm

Newton North High School Track



Leo is running the 2012 Boston Marathon to raise money for the Newton Schools Foundation, whose mission is to support the Newton Public Schools. Support Leo’s effort and learn about how training for marathons helped Leo turn his life around at www.newtonschoolsfoundation.org

Register for this clinic at www.newtonschoolsfoundation.org

* Families are welcome. Runners should wear proper clothing and footwear for athletic activity. Weather permitting.


Leo’s Story

When Leo Westebbe was a sophomore at Newton South High School, he was failing classes, lacking self-confidence and feeling bad about his future prospects. But his participation in the Dreamfar High School Marathon program, along with the help and support of staff and programs at Newton South High School, helped put him on track for success.

Now the Clark University freshman wants to give back to the community that helped him.  On April 16, he’ll run the Boston Marathon for the Newton Schools Foundation with a goal of raising $6,000 to support the NSF’s effort to raise $5 million over three years.  These funds will provide the tools, technology and teacher training to foster innovative teaching and learning across all of Newton’s public schools.

“I’m happy to be running for the Newton schools,” said Westebbe. “For a kid like me who really struggled emotionally and academically, not every school system would have been so supportive. Newton schools really don’t give up on people.”

An Uphill Climb
Meeting the confident mild-mannered 18-year-old, one would never suspect the challenges he had to overcome .  But according to Westebbe—after a rough middle school experience and a rocky start to high school coupled with trouble at home—by sophomore year, “I was feeling depressed and failing some classes. I got to the point where I basically did no schoolwork because I just didn’t think I could.”

Westebbe was referred to the Springboard Program at the Newton Education Center, where he learned strategies to tackle his academic challenges.

“They helped me see how to break things down and get work done.  I grew personally during that time,” says Westebbe.

With his schoolwork improving, he returned to South and entered Southside, a program for students with behavioral, social, emotional and/or academic challenges that have prevented them from succeeding in a mainstream environment.

“The best thing about Southside for me was having that community of people—knowing there were 20 other kids struggling and there for the same reason, and that teachers were there to support me,” he says. “The teachers really gave me positive feedback and helped me stay on the right track.”

Eye on the Finish Line
Midway through his junior year Westebbe mentioned to a Southside friend that he wanted to get in shape.  The friend suggested he check out Dreamfar.  The Dreamfar High School Marathon is New England’s first high school marathon training program that teaches at-risk high school students that anything is possible, even completing a marathon.   They teach students realistic goal-setting and the value of commitment and teamwork—skills that ensure success in the classroom, on the road, and beyond.

“The idea of me running a marathon sounded kind of crazy—I never thought of myself as athletic,” said Westebbe, who joked, “I barely got a hit in Little League.”

In spite of his doubts, he went to a Dreamfar meeting. “I learned that so may different kinds of kids were doing it [marathon training], some athletic and some not, and I thought, ‘If they could do it, there was no reason I couldn’t.’”

“Running is such an equalizer,” explains Jamie Chaloff, founder and director of Dreamfar High School Marathon. “One of the great things about the program is that kids who would never have crossed paths become good friends.  They support each other through thick and thin.”  She adds, “It’s like a family.”

Things took off from there.  While maintaining his academic course load, Westebbe, along with his teammates ran three times per week with adult mentors and coaches, and learned about proper conditioning, nutrition, gear and training, as they prepared for the Providence Marathon in the spring of 2010.

“I learned a lot about myself,” says Westebbe. “My academics got a lot better, I lost weight and gained self-confidence, and I made a lot of new friends.”

“Running in the marathon was a culmination of everything—all the training we’d done and the skills and techniques we’d learned,” said Westebbe. “I was there with all my mentors and people in the program… I felt really confident that they’d given me everything I needed to run.”

He completed the Providence Marathon and went on to captain the Dreamfar team at Newton South during his senior year, running another marathon and several half-marathons.  “Now running is an important part of my life,” he says. “It helps give me structure.”

When asked what advice he’d give young kids who are struggling, Leo says, “I believe people can achieve almost anything.  All it takes is believing you can do something and reaching out to people who can help you…Having a team of people who support you is really important.”

It’s not always easy, he says. When the going gets tough, “I think about the end.”

“When you’re going through the hardest times, keep your eyes set on your goal, the rewards.  The painful parts are something you have to do to achieve what you want—in a marathon and in life.”

Join Leo’s Team 
Leo Westebbe’s run will support the Newton Schools Foundation, the non-profit organization whose broad goal is to support the Newton Public Schools.  In today’s challenging economic environment, this public-private partnership is essential to  Newton’s ability to provide quality education and innovative programs, like the ones that helped Leo Westebbe.

“We’re thrilled and honored to have such an amazing young man representing our organization at this year’s Boston Marathon,” says NSF Co-president Julie Sall, “and we hope the community will support his journey from Hopkinton to Back Bay to support our schools.”

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2 Responses to “Free Running Clinic, Run Leo Run! March 31st NNHS”
  1. Heidi19 says:

    I salute you Leo for that amazing bravery and maturity you’ve fight for. A young innocent man, thinking for his people. How inspiring he is. I am so proud that he thinks further, he thinks not just for him but also for others. A good model he can be in his country and to the world.

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