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BC Alum Runs Ultramarathon For Fundraiser

Liz Byron, a teacher at Gardner Pilot Academy, will run an ultramarathon to raise $50,000.

Heights Staff

Published: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 14:02

Liz Byron has always done things best in under a minute. The former Boston College swimmer sprinted her way to the school’s 50-free record before graduating from the Lynch School of Education in 2006.

However, the now sixth grade special education teacher at Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA) in Allston wanted a change of pace.

Next spring, Byron plans to run a 155-mile ultra marathon in Africa through the Sahara Desert called the Marathon des Sables to raise $50,000 for 30 new laptops for her school. “If you told me when I was 22 that I would be running an 155 mile race at 28 I would have laughed,” Byron said.

The Marathon des Sables consists of five and a half marathons over six days, in 110-degree heat. All of the runner’s food, water, and supplies must be carried on his or her back.

“I’ve always been very competitive and focused my whole life,” Byron said. “So this seemed like the natural way to go about effecting change.”

Byron’s valiant efforts are for a good cause, too. GPA only has three antiquated laptops for 46 sixth grade students. The school used to have a fourth, but it has broken and has not been replaced.

“Middle school students deserve access to working technology,” Byron said. “Our students are the types of kids who can and will succeed, but are more likely to succeed when given the resources they deserve.”

The school’s demographics alone illustrate the need for the integration of modern technology into curriculum. 87.5 percent of Gardner Pilot students are at or below poverty line, 56 percent speak another language at home, and 21 percent have a disability.

“How can we expect to end poverty when we aren’t educating these kids properly?” Byron asked. “We are trying to train kids to be successful members of society in a world where the presence of technology is overwhelming—how can we expect them to achieve success without access to crucial resources?”

Byron says that there are a plethora of assets to having technology available in schools, particularly for special needs kids. Specifically, MacBook laptops make curriculum more accessible to students with disabilities with various user-friendly features.

Byron is fundraising through the website www.runforlaptops.org. One hundred percent of the money donated goes toward buying laptops for the school. Byron is funding the race and travel expenses herself. So far, she has raised $20,036 of her $50,000 goal. She has already bought eight MacBook laptops that are being put to good use at GPA. “The school fundraises an enormous amount to be able to provide the programs it does, so I saw this is just filling in another gap,” Byron said.

GPA is a full-service Boston Public School with unique programs and special facilities. The school provides family support, a full-time counselor, a nurse, and adult education. The school also has two state-of-the-art science laboratories and an outdoor science classroom.

GPA also provides enough special education so that students can learn in a general education environment. All of this, however, would not be possible without extensive private fundraising from people like Byron.

Byron says that it is her kids that motivate her and inspire her to keep working toward her $50,000 goal.

She is even getting the kids involved in the process in the classroom. She has added elements of the race and fundraising, such as the temperature of the desert, length of the race, and percentage of the money earned, into her curriculum.

“The kids are engaged, involved, and so incredibly grateful, says Byron. “They truly inspire and energize me each day with how hard they work—I couldn’t think of a better cause worth running 155 miles in the desert for,” she said.

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