On mats in a corner of Corvallis’ SamFit, Crescent Valley High School student Laura Estreich stretches into yoga poses as Crescent Valley special education teacher Rachel Stalter provides instruction.
“I love being active,” Estreich said. “I’m trying to keep healthy.”
Learning an exercise routine with proper techniques is what instructors Stalter and Angela Faulk hope to instill as a building block to a healthy life for their at-risk students.
“I learned that keeping a resolution of trying to go to the gym is not hard,” said Lemmy Jensen during a workout break. “I enjoy this because I get experience exercising.”
These young adult students with special needs are from Corvallis School District’s Work Experience, Instruction, Networking, Goal-Setting and Self-Determination or WINGS program. The program serves students between the ages of 18 to 21, with mild to moderate disabilities in transitioning to independent or group living environments. SamFit gives participants complimentary access to the club for the hour-long session.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for them to just experience real life activities,” said Erika Hanselman Green, Corvallis SamFit fitness center coordinator. “We have them all come in and sign up to be a member, get their own key card and sign their membership agreement. They do all these real-life things they might do when they’re not part of the program anymore.”
A handful of students come through the facility daily assisted by instructors and aids. The students assimilate with the club’s members using treadmills, exercise bikes, free weights and weight machines.
“I’m so grateful to live in a community that supports our program and partner with SamFit,” said Stalter.
The WINGS instructors approached Hanselman Green about using SamFit after a school district construction project shut down the gym they were using.
“At that gym, it was isolated, they were not being exposed to etiquette and learning from the examples of other adults exercising,” explained Stalter.
According to the CDC, adults with disabilities are more likely to have obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer than adults without disabilities.
“My hope is by having students participate at SamFit they are developing healthy habits that allow them to live a healthy and productive life,” Stalter said. “Opportunities likes this can make a difference.”
Student Hannah Meyer will be graduating out of WINGS this spring. She said she feels good that she’s actually doing some exercises and finds it energizing.
“I was actually thinking that maybe I can have my mom work out with me after I graduate,” said Meyer. “We can use the gym here at SamFit.”