Never Stop Moving
Luis Doel González was 14 years old when he came to Philly from Jajuya, Puerto Rico with his mother after his parents split. That’s a rough age for any kid to be uprooted to a new city, let alone coming from a beautiful Caribbean island to a big city. He didn’t speak any English, which made adjusting even tougher. González was put into the "English immersion" program at Edison High School. There were only two periods of English as a second language; the rest of his classes were all taught in Spanish—not an ideal arrangement for learning English quickly. “I graduated from Edison and still didn't speak English. I weighed my options for college. I really wanted to go back to Puerto Rico, but it didn't happen.”
Instead González enrolled in the BUSCA program at La Salle University, where all his courses were in Spanish as he simultaneously took intensive English classes. This enabled him transfer to all English classes after completing his associates degree. “It took an additional semester to complete my Bachelors degree (in Sociology) but that's the way I did it. I earned my master's there as well.”Interesting side note: for his bachelor's degree thesis, González examined the program he went through at Edison—the one that had no English immersion component. He had hypothesized that students would not be satisfied with that program; and was surprised to learn that they actually were and had to reject his hypothesis. He concluded that having surveyed only students who were actively enrolled in the program was a flaw in his study, as they likely had not yet confronted with limited options of being mono-lingual in a setting where their native tongue is not the official language. Further, he conclude that a survey of the same students after graduation would show that the lack of English immersion had limited their options after high school and that they would have changed their minds.
Initially he wanted to be a high school teacher, but his first job landed him in social work; “so I changed my major, and it kind of stuck. I liked what we were doing there. And I stayed. I’ve been in workforce development—welfare to work—for 21 years now.”
González connected with Legacy of Hope through a friend of his who worked out with Core Fitness. “Friends of mine who actually were connected with CoreFitness always invited us, you guys gotta try it. They finally convinced us to go; and we went to a free class, and we kept going.” He got to know Gina Mancuso and learned about Legacy of Hope, which was relevant because he lost his grandfather to prostate cancer. He also lost one of his sisters to breast cancer two years ago. “She was really young, she battled it. I think cancer affects everybody. It has affected me personally when it comes to my family, but it's a devastating disease for whomever goes through it. And I guess because of the field that I'm in, I'm always inclined to find ways to help.”
And help he does. González is a veteran of the PHL24, having completed the grueling 24 hour stair climb four out of five years, since its inception. Each time he graciously raised funds for Legacy’s Emergency Patient Support Network. He also has six Love Run Philadelphia Half Marathons to his credit, running as a sponsored Athlete for Legacy of Hope in several of them.
“The first half marathon I ever did was the Love Run, roughly eight years ago. The longest that I had run before then was six miles. My friend Lina saw me, and said ‘Oh come on, you can do it. If you can do six miles, you can do 13.1!’ I was like, oh my God. I was freaking out. But we did it. It was super cold that day too. But it was great and I've been loyal to Love Run since. Now that it's connected with Legacy of Hope I feel like I have to.”
González espouses a straightforward approach to life that would behoove us all to follow—be nice to people. “I always tell people, you get more bees with honey. Just be nice! In my line of work, we get a lot of clients who are really upset and I just try to be nice with them all the time, because you never know what they're going through. At the end of the day, whether they get their problem solved or not, they leave with a more positive experience, versus just leaving completely angry. It doesn't work all the time, but you have to try.”
When asked what keeps him going, González shares “My husband, Liu, and I really enjoy going on hikes. We try to do that every weekend, and whenever we have the chance we try to find new trails to explore. One of our favorite spots is Hawk Mountain. About an hour and a half from Philly. I remember going to my doctor a few years ago because I needed a referral to have physical therapy for a running injury. The doctor told me, ‘Whatever you do in life, even if you have to go get physical therapy and treatments, never stop moving! Stay active, because once you stop, you go downhill.’ González has followed his doctor’s orders, and then some. His next “movement session” will consist of running the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon as a Legacy of Sponsored Athlete this Sunday, Mar 26, 2023. Please support Luis’s fundraising for Legacy of Hope as he completes yet another Love Run.
It’s too late to register for the Love Run, BUT if you’re already registered to run either the half marathon or the 7.6k, there’s time to have your registration fee waived. Here’s how it works. Complete this form and you will then receive a Legacy of Hope fundraising page. You have until April 30th to raise $250, at which point your registration fee will be refunded. Thank you, and happy racing.