Anne Comer and Mimi Tom weren’t sure exactly what to expect from the new life fitness course for Columbia County special-needs classes started this school year, but the experience of Scott Norton’s Evans Middle School class during sessions at the Wilson Branch of The Family Y proved the pilot program’s worth.
“After our yoga class, (Norton) wanted to get a DVD and start continuing that in class,” said Tom, who is a recreational therapist with Comer serving Columbia County schools.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to find something they really enjoy,” she said. “One student in particular, she was able to follow the steps of the instructor to a T. Her face would just light up.”
Yoga is just one of several of the program’s offerings, which are designed to give students a taste of various fitness activities. The program also features treadmill, elliptical, track, weight machines, indoor biking and zumba classes.
“We’re trying to expose them to a variety so that, hopefully, they’ll develop a passion for at least one, and maybe more,” Comer said.
The county still offers the tried-and-true programs it has for years, such as basketball and gymnastics.
Comer said that this particular program has an emphasis on maintaining health into the future.
“This is an introductory class,” she said. “We’re trying to expose them to life fitness skills that they can develop. Once they graduate, they’ll be able to have some good exercise and fitness (routines) for life.”
Comer and Tom said that The Family Y has been instrumental in the county’s program offerings to special-needs classes in the past.
Recently, Haydens Gymnasium joined with the school system, offering a venue for gymnastics programs for special-needs classes.
Jennifer Perez’s students with cognitive disabilities at Greenbrier High School just finished its second week of the life fitness program.
Perez said that Kenesha Tate was a prime example of what the program was accomplishing.
On entering the indoor bicycle room, Tate was unsure about the intricacies of the activity and a bit scared of the apparatus.
With the help of a trainer and a little practice, she soon looked like a seasoned professional.
Comer said the goal is to be able to send home a sheet to the family detailing which activity each pupil enjoyed most.
The family could then follow through and help the pupil develop that passion.
“Even if they don’t want to come to the gym, they could say, ‘Hey, Mom, I really like doing the treadmill,’ ” said Wilson Family Y Program Director Cheryl Lizama. “Maybe their mom could get them one for the home.”