I went back to school in 2008 to get my teaching credential. I knew I wanted to work with middle school kids, as that was the age that impacted me the most. While studying for my credential I had the opportunity to do a video/lesson for one of my assignments, and I chose Monarch School. Monarch is a public school in downtown San Diego that serves students who are affected by homelessness.
Opportunities arose that created a slightly different path than I had envisioned in 2008, but here I am four years later doing exactly what I hoped to do. For the past nine months I have had the privilege of working with a group of 7th and 8th grade students from Monarch. They come in excited to workout and they always have a great time.
They have learned the fundamentals of good, functional fitness (CrossFit); how to squat, deadlift, press, run, row and perform basic gymnastics like handstand holds and rope jumping. The students are great to work with. For the most part, they are focused and ready to tackle whatever new challenge is thrown their way. That’s not always the case, but that is part of the fun and challenge for me as their instructor. It keeps me on my toes and focused to be at my best to keep them motivated, moving and having fun.
The students have seen a lot of improvements in their movement quality and fitness. When they began, they struggled to master some of the basics – everything from our dynamic warm-ups to the lifts we would perform. They now comfortably cruise through our warm-ups and confidently approach every lift and workout. Most importantly, the biggest change has been in their attitude toward health and fitness. When they began the program, many were very skeptical of rigorous training. They saw lots of obstacles and few opportunities. Now they come into the gym hoping for difficult challenges and see them as opportunities to show themselves and everyone else how far they have come. They are also conscious about their choices when it comes to food, and many are prioritizing their fitness and workouts outside of the times that we are able to meet.
Here is what the students have to say about their experience at Invictus:
“It helps us believe that we can do anything” – Jacob (age 13)
“It makes us feel positive and strong.” – EP (age 15)
“It’s a great way to release stress.” – Alicia (age 13)
“Nuno is cool because he wants to help us get healthy.” – Ricki (age 14)
“Nuno is great because he cares about us” – Alyssa (age 14)
“He is always there to encourage us and to cheer us up.” – Elizabeth (age 14)
“Burpees are ridiculously difficult.” – Christian (15)
Overall the students have a much more positive outlook on themselves and what they can accomplish. Fitness has become part of their culture and something they strive towards – they want to be FIT!
While my route to teaching kids wasn’t as linear as I expected, I couldn’t be happier with the opportunities I have had to impact the lives of the kids from Monarch. These kids are phenomenal individuals, and I feel blessed to be able to give back and provide a positive influence in their lives.