Track and field coach sees potential in Immokalee’s youth

2010 was one of the worst years in Haitian history. They started out the year with an earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, and then eight days later, they had another devastating earthquake. By October Haiti experienced a cholera outbreak that killed thousands more citizens and in November Hurricane Tomas caused more damage and deaths which worsened the cholera epidemic. However, in the midst of all of the despair and chaos, Jean Ronald Borgella, a professional Track and field coach, dedicated his talents to help underprivileged children gain running skills and have hope of a better life.

Jean Ronald Borgella dedicated his talents to help children. (Submitted photo/Lewis Perkins)

Fate has brought this amazing person to Immokalee. Inspired by individual freedom, Jean moved to America. However, he still belongs to La Federation Haitienne d’Athletisme Amateur (Federation of Hattian Amateur Athletes), who, because of his accomplishment of winning the 1998 and 1999 Junior Athlete of the Year, encouraged him to move to Immokalee to seek youth who will represent Haiti in the Youth Olympic Games in 2018. Jean volunteers to help coach Immokalee Middle School’s track team. However, he is not one to sit on the sidelines as he trains with the middle school students. “You benefit from staying active as a coach… As an educator, there is a continuous [desire for] individual growth, development and a healthy life style.” Jean embraces Immokalee’s culture: “I find that Immokalee is a welcoming area [where] I am respected and [feel] safe.”

Unfortunately, the middle school track season only last a couple of months and Jean sees this as a deterrent to student athletes who will get out of shape during off season instead of improving their skills. “The community needs a track club for Immokalee’s youth,” Jean proclaims as he sees a lot of talent in the middle school’s athletes. Jean dedicates himself to enhancing the development and growth of today’s youth. He advises youth that he encounters, “…to participate in sports activities, even [if it’s] just for [the] health benefit.” Seeing all of his dedication and passion to help young athletes, it’s no wonder that The Gabby Douglas story, (about a young gymnast who conquered overwhelming odds to become a world champion), is an inspiration to him. With Immokalee’s diverse population, Jean loves learning different languages, which makes him a true asset.

Even though soccer was the only sport played in his neighborhood, Jean’s family became well known track stars. He is most inspired by his father, who is a leading promoter of Haitian track and field. Jean said that track and field has given him a “larger perception of life” by teaching him perseverance, discipline, and goal setting. Coaching has allowed Jean to feel a better sense of the community by teaching him social integration. In his prime, Jean competed in various jumping and long distance running events. Although Jean does not currently compete in these events, he competes in duathlons, a race that involves running, bicycling, and then running again, similar to a triathlon without swimming. He recently competed in the Mack Cycle duathlon in Miami. In the future, Jean plans on joining the United States Airforce.

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