By Gabriela Carroll
Three Southampton High School seniors teamed up for Mariner’s Run for Unity, a virtual run held Sunday to raise funds for a scholarship fund for students of color at Southampton High School. Through a Gofundme page, the run raised over $7,000 for the scholarship.
Griffin Wei, Reece Nugent and Dreanne Joseph are all members of the Southampton Cross Country team, and came up with the idea after searching for ways to make an impact against systemic racism in the Southampton community.
“I think it’s pretty cool that we’re starting with our own school,” Joseph said. “Because with all this going on, we obviously can’t fix the entire world, but it’s a good start to start with our community.”
The Black Lives Matter movement gained significant attention in recent months after the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Protests occurred all over the nation, including many on the East End, largely led by young people and students.
Wei, Nugent and Joseph wanted to make a tangible contribution, and decided to start Mariner’s Run for Unity to establish what they hope will become an annual scholarship at Southampton High School to aid BIPOC students in their own community and approach the issue of systemic racism from a local angle.
“This common trend of systemic racism and all these events happening, whether it be police brutality, or just literally racism, just seeing that it’s sickening,” Nugent said. “Right now, it’s not enough to be silent and just not racist. You have to be anti-racist, active.”
Their shared cross country experience made a charity run an obvious option, but Wei said he was inspired by the #IRunWithMaud movement, a national virtual running movement started after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery while out jogging on February 23. The #IRunWithMaud runs are 2.23 miles, based off the date of his death, and Mariner’s Run for Unity continued that.
Nugent was disappointed the run couldn’t take place in person, to bring the community together physically to support the cause like the protests have, but he said social media helped them make a similar splash.
“They usually have a run going on this time of year, and everyone’s running together,” Nugent said. “But I think we can have a very similar impact with the digital stuff and spreading the word throughout social media and throughout all these digital platforms, and just spreading the word and getting people on board with it, and getting people hooked on it.”
In the description of the Gofundme, the three organizers discussed the cross country team’s tagline: family. Their cross country family “includes people of all different athletic capabilities, ethnic backgrounds, and situations at home.”
The aim of the scholarship fund is to help ease financial burdens for BIPOC students so that they can attend college. Joseph said she hoped the scholarship could help its recipient have opportunities they may not have had otherwise.
“Not many of the African American students have the same opportunities when it comes to college and stuff,” she said.
The virtual run encouraged all of their team and community members to donate $25 and run the 2.23-mile encouraged distance. The three organizers ran together with their track coach, starting at the Southampton High School track and making their way through the village.
Though the supporters couldn’t all run the 2.23-mile course together, they hope many took the time to get out and run to honor the cause on their own or in small groups.
“There’s no way to track that they’re not running, they can obviously run more or less if they want,” Wei said. “As long as people get up, get out and just run a little bit whether they run the actual distance or not, they’re being active and they’re doing something to support the cause. So, by all means anyone doing anything is supported by all of us.”
The Gofundme page fulfilled the initial $5,000 goal within days of posting. Almost every donor gave more than the suggested $25 donation, though the largest donation by far came in a $1,000 donation from the Southampton Teachers Association. The association members all gathered together to complete the 2.23 miles as a group on Sunday.
The Teachers Association’s participation was indicative of wider administrative support from Southampton High School, according to Nugent.
“I’ve seen nothing but support,” he said. “I’ve been reached out to by many teachers and they’ve just said they’re very proud and very impressed with this initiative, that we came out and tried to do something and make a change.”
The three runners hope Mariner’s Run for Unity will become an annual event to continue to invest in the community.
Joseph said she hopes many students can benefit from the opportunities the scholarship program can provide, and wants to see the run grow when they can host an in-person event and have all of the supporters together.
“We’re coming up on our last year of high school,” Nugent said. “We want to make sure this makes a big impact, so that people after us within the school will keep carrying it and on keep running this. Whether it be people from administration or students that want to follow in our footsteps, we hope they keep the initiative going for years to come.”