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Q: What drives you to be at Fit Kids?
A: I’ve always had a passion for working with kids, and working with underserved kids is my true passion. I’ve gained so much respect for what they’re going through and the struggles they have to overcome to be successful.
Teaching these kids how to be fit and live healthier lives is a new world for me, but it’s exciting, because I’m an active person myself. It’s fun to see the smiles on students’ faces when they’re learning a new activity and when they accomplish a task. It’s very rewarding.
Q: Tell us more about your childhood sports and how that feeds into your active lifestyle as an adult.
A: I absolutely loved volleyball. That was my passion. I was an amazing overhand server, which wasn’t common for a sixth-grader. I played basketball and soccer and ran track, the 100, 200 and 4×100. I competed against athletes’ children, including Keena Turner’s daughter. Sports were a way for me to let out my emotions. I always looked to sports to be my release. It was also an avenue to stay out of trouble. A lot of kids my age got into trouble because after school they weren’t doing anything, and I was like, “Well, no, sorry, I have to go to practice.”
It wasn’t until my adult life that I learned it’s not all about competition. You just need to live a physically fit life. I like walking with my children. I like to push myself in things like climbing and hiking that force me to dig deep. I would like to accomplish hiking Mission Peak in the near future.
I’m going to enjoy being out on the field with the kids and their coaches. Sometimes, maybe I’ll compete with the kids, because when adults do an activity with them, they’re likely to try and improve. Maybe I’ll let them win. I am competitive, but if that’s what I have to do to get kids to improve their fitness, then I’ll take that loss.
Q: More seriously, you mentioned the struggles facing the children served by Fit Kids. How would you summarize those?
A: There’s a lot of stress that stems from their parents being stressed. One thing is income. For a lot of these students, their parents are immigrants and don’t have the skill set to get a job in the tech world or the finance world, so they may do restaurant or janitorial work, where there’s very little money to support a family. So the kids are stressed because the parents are stressed because of finances.
More stress stems from the housing situation. The students that Fit Kids serves are literally in the heart of Silicon Valley. East Palo Alto is a very small community, and it’s being taken over by the tech world. People working in the tech field are moving into East Palo Alto, and that’s slowly moving people out of their homes, because rent is being raised and the students’ parents can’t afford it.
Students are having to move in with cousins or other families, so they’re no longer in a single-family home. They’re being doubled and tripled and maybe even quadrupled up in a home sometimes with people they don’t even know. Then there’s the stress of not knowing if there’s going to be food on the table, and in East Palo Alto the majority of the community is Hispanic, and kids are afraid of their parents being deported.
That’s a lot on a six- or seven-year-old. They understand what their parents and other adults are talking about in the home. The kids understand what’s going on. Although they’re not the ones trying to find the higher-paying job or secure the housing, it affects them because they’re just trying to figure out, “Where am I going to sleep? What am I going to eat?” That’s stressful for them.
They bring all these stresses to school, and Fit Kids supports these kids through their struggles and challenges just by taking them out of that world and allowing them to be kid, have fun, and learn healthier ways of living.
Q: When you were a Fit Kids partner, what did you see that made you want to join the organization?
A: Fit Kids fills the void of what to do with these kids after they’ve been in school, sometimes 8:15 to 4, and other days when they get out at 1:10 and a school has them until 6 p.m. in the after-school program. I remember Fit Kids taking such a weight off my shoulders.
Then, I began to learn and understand the importance of it. We had kids eating family-sized bags of chips for lunch and just sitting during recess. But with Fit Kids, I saw the joy in the kids’ faces. That’s so big when they see their Fit Kids coaches come onto campus in those blue polo shirts. It’s huge. They see their coach, with their equipment bag and that blue polo, and they’re ready.
It’s a pleasure to be a part of helping Fit Kids reach more students. I see data that the number of kids who are going to be obese in the coming years may be rapidly increasing. To help fix that problem is rewarding. I don’t get to work with the kids like I used to, but now I can support them on a bigger scale.
Q: What will your success at Fit Kids look like?
A: I would like to see Fit Kids in every state. Going international would be great, too. One of my biggest goals would be for kids that are part of the program to understand the benefit of it, and I’d like to see it play out as they get older. I would like to see those kids deciding NOT to eat that big bag of chips and staying active. I would like to see kids acknowledge that it’s because of Fit Kids that they’re leading a healthier life.