HAVERHILL — Matthew Valli was stuck in a rut, but then the Amesbury resident and Pentucket High School graduate found direction in life by discovering his passion: running.
“In 2011, I really started to focus on my running and making better choices in my life,” said Valli, now a 26-year-old Northern Essex Community College student.
“Running helped to guide me in that direction by opening doors for me. I was in a dead-end job. I didn’t go to college after high school, and I was content with my life. When I started running, I noticed some very positive benefits it gave me. I just grasped it and ran with it.”
Valli’s story is not uncommon for high school graduates: The thought of returning to school and attending college without a known direction in life leaves many to hesitate. Few 18-year-old kids know what the passion in their life is, and some never find it. But Valli did.
Running not only became a passion but also an employment opportunity. Currently an employee at Newburyport’s Greater Boston Running Company, Valli works as an athletic mentor and coach for 26 people looking to incorporate athletics into their lives.
“I have an eight- to nine-week program, where we have a 5K race as an end result,” Valli said. “I have a plan for the whole nine weeks; we meet Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. When I get to meet the people in my group, I can make the plan more individualized and personalized. It’s cool to see their progress over time. We start with jogging for 60 seconds at a time to running for a half an hour straight.”
Along with his training groups, Valli is working as an intern for the NECC Campus Classic 5K and Fun Run. In its second year, the event brings a campus and its community together while raising money for scholarships and student programs.