Up to 80 students can pile into Central Junior High School’s second gym and get time with a personal trainer twice a week.
It’s part of a brand new section of the school’s after-school program — Smart Strength.
Central teacher Michel Loomis, one of the school’s Fun Run founders, said she thought giving students a chance to get fit was worth the summer-long fundraising and grant applications to pay for four personal trainers to come in and work up a sweat alongside the students.
“We’re giving them strength, fitness and nutrition help, and we’re learning how to do it really well,” Loomis said. “This is a pilot year. There are more children in need than just at Central Junior High.”
Chad Richards, owner and trainer at Next Level Sports and Performance training studio in North Lawrence, brings in a team on Wednesdays and Fridays to exercise with the junior high students.
“We have a big group, so we try to make it as fun as possible,” Richards said. “It’s a program designed to teach kids all the things they need for any game — agility, speed, the ability to accelerate, decelerate, that type of thing.”
The students have taken to the group workout.
“Volleyball ended, and I was like, ‘Well, I need something to do,’” ninth-grader Rhiannon Crocker said. “It’s a really good program, and I would have never thought about (having a personal trainer).”
Seventh-grader Connor Ballenger actually worked out at Next Level, but when his money ran out, he felt lucky Central had an alternative.
“I need something to do on the off-season of basketball and baseball,” Ballenger said. “It will really help me with my coordination.”
For Richards, it’s also a way to scout out potential collegiate athletes.
“We’ve found a few in here,” Richards said. “We can offer what we consider a scholarship program to some of these kids and really help them along.”
Loomis said she hoped this first-year program could spread all over Lawrence public schools.
“We’re working now on sustainability,” Loomis said. “It’s much more important for younger people because then they can do it their whole life.”