This past Saturday, November 21, MYTHIRDPLACE had the opportunity to attend an amazing event put on by Neighborhood Homework House at Azusa High School. They showed Disney’s “McFarland, USA,” based on the inspirational true story of the first cross country team at McFarland High in 1987. In addition to this, one of the members of the team depicted in the film, Danny Diaz, was there to talk to the hundreds of teens and families in attendance, and even answered some questions. The cost of the event: bring in a can of food to be donated to a local food bank.
Having never seen the movie before, I didn’t know what to expect. My grandparents, knowing that I work here in Azusa, had recommended that I see it some months ago, but up until this event, I’d never seen it. I knew it would be a “feel-good” movie, but didn’t know it would touch my heart as much as it did. As I watched the story unfold about these cross country-running teens, I was reminded of the teens to my left and right. Some struggle with balancing school, work, taking care of their siblings, and having time of their own to just be a teen. Some don’t have vision for their lives, motivation to do well in school, or even motivation to keep on living. They have many odds stacked against them, but they are strong, hardworking, and so loving. Just as the boys in the movie capture the heart of their coach Jim White, our teens have captured mine.
After the movie, Danny Diaz motivated teens and families in the audience to continue fighting and chasing after their goals no matter what the obstacles, like he and the other teammates did on his cross country team. He is a living example of the beauty that can come out of the trials and difficulties that so many teens face. He reminded us that there will be moments in each of our lives when we will be called on to be agents of change, impact, and influence, and we should live our lives ready for those moments.
What seemed to make a difference in the lives of the boys in the film, and what we think will make a difference in our teens’ lives, was having a third place, outside of school and home. They had a space where they were supported and loved by their coach and each other. They made goals and achieved them. We’re thankful that there are third places in Azusa, like MYTHIRDPLACE and Homework House, where youth of Azusa are able to come after school and have an additional support system and place to belong and grow. Our heart is for every teen to have a positive third place, whether that’s with us, with Homework House, on a sports team, or somewhere else.
I and the rest of us at MYTHIRDPLACE were so glad to share in this event and are thankful for all of the efforts of Homework House and AUSD. In addition to bringing in about 1000 cans for the food drive, the many teens and families that came to experience the event left encouraged and inspired, and we did too. We’re thankful that we have such amazing partners in the city of Azusa committed to the lives of young people, and are looking forward to many more events and ways to partner in the future.