SAN VICENTE BLVD — Finding a summer job can be a tall order for some high school kids. Not so much for Justin Sardo.
The Santa Monica High School senior-to-be is an avid runner and figured that he could turn his love for track into something more.
He began the Santa Monica Youth Running Club last year with a buddy, but it was an informal endeavor. So, this summer, he wanted to make it more of a business.
He circulated e-mails among user groups associated with Santa Monica schools earlier this summer expecting to find a few takers. Instead, he’s attracted 15 or so middle school clients all willing to pay up to learn from the Samohi track star.
Some of his business has even been a family affair.
Paul Revere Charter Middle School seventh grader Lleyton Bochicchio’s dad works with Sardo’s dad, which cinched the deal.
Although Bochicchio has only taken part in two classes thus far, he said he “likes it a lot” because it helps him stay fit for soccer.
“There aren’t many opportunities for kids below high school level to pursue running,” Sardo said. “I wanted to help middle school athletes develop their skills.”
Sardo accomplishes his task with drills and distance runs, pushing his clients to traverse as many as 5 miles a class.
The group usually meets at the corner of San Vicente Boulevard and Ocean Avenue three days a week. They begin with some light stretching and a little small talk before heading out on a mile warm-up run.
They return to the north side of Palisades Park where they perform what Sardo calls dynamic stretching and some light calisthenics and round out the day with a 4-mile run. On a recent Tuesday, Sardo led his students down the length of Palisades Park to the Santa Monica Pier sign and back to San Vicente.
Anya Sturm, a second-year member and eighth grader at John Adams Middle School, said that she found Justin through his e-mail blasts and figured she’d give it a try.
“I’ve had a good time running with Justin,” Sturm said. “He makes it interesting.”
Whatever he’s teaching Sturm and the rest of his runners keeps them coming back.
Sturm said the second go around has been more productive and professional. Last year, Sardo wouldn’t hold official sessions. He would just tell the group to come out if they were so moved and Sturm became a regular.
Some days it would be just the two of them, essentially giving Sturm private lessons.
Sardo attributes much of his success to his clients’ parents. They are often the ones who come across his e-mail and seize the opportunity to keep their kids active during summer vacation.
“I don’t get many e-mails from kids,” he said. “I think the parents like the idea of getting their kids into running.”
Once Sardo gets down to spreading his knowledge, he strives to keep his young students engaged.
“I try to make it as fun as possible,” he said. “If feels good to really push yourself. … I think that’s something they take away.”
This year’s regimented sessions and larger group have given Sardo more to contend with, but he is what some call an over achiever.
Aside from running track at Samohi, Sardo began the Pocket Change nonprofit last year as a way to raise money for other local nonprofits.
He fashioned a few boxes with a Pocket Change sign and placed them around Samohi, raising hundreds of dollars for homeless service provider OPCC in the process.
“I try to stay active,” he said modestly.
For more information about Sardo’s running club, contact him at email@example.com.