Thanks to track and a trusted mentor, a Beltsville, Maryland teenager is racing his way to success.
Johnathan Avila, an 18-year-old senior at High Point High School, is headed to Wilmington University with a full scholarship to run track. It’s a special moment for Avila and his parents; he’s the first person in his family to go to college.
And it's a special moment for Prince George’s County Police Corporal Kenneth Hibbard. Hibbard and Avila met when the teenager ran a 2013 5K memorial run, honoring fallen officer Adrian Morris, one of Hibbard’s previous mentees.
Avila placed first overall in the race, something Corporal Hibbard immediately noticed.
“Johnathan blew everybody out of the water,” Hibbard said.
Hibbard runs the Police Explorers Leadership Program in Laurel and Beltsville. In that program, police officers provide guidance and mentorship to young men and women with potential. After Hibbard saw Avila run, he knew the boy had opportunities unbeknownst to him.
“I got a scholarship to run track and that was my foot in the door,” Hibbard said. “I said, ‘You can do that, too.’”
With Hibbard at his side, Avila began running track at his high school. He went on to gain local and national recognition for his cross-country, one-mile and two-mile meets, and his hard work eventually led to a full ride at Wilmington. Hibbard was with him when he signed his scholarship papers.
Avila began to cry when reflecting on his success.
"It’s emotional," he said between tears. “We’ve been through a lot.”
Avila starts school in the fall, where he wants to study business. But after graduation, his plans are crystal clear: He’ll be a police officer.
“I want to become like Corporal Hibbard,” he says. “He’s my role model.”