Fitness Club Takes Weight Off Minds
School counselors created a fitness club providing students a place to belong.
Derek Pratt ’18 ’22 believes in providing opportunities for students to feel like they belong.
During his time in the School Counselor Program in the Department of Counselor Education at SUNY Brockport he took an internship at Batavia High School.
“I got to work closely with a lot of the staff in the High School and Middle School for several months. Batavia was an amazing site and was very supportive of me in my time there. I was able to participate in many different ways at the school with things like extracurriculars such as their video game club, board game club, and the after-school fitness program which I did my capstone on.”
The fitness club met twice a week and all students were invited to join Pratt and the other advisors to learn how to lift weights in a safe space.
“It was kind of perfect, I was on my own journey,” Pratt said. “I had just started going to the gym.” An environment like fitness club not only teaches the basics of lifting, gym culture and etiquette but also relationship building skills, social connections and enforces a feeling of belonging.
A lot of the students were already known by Pratt and the other counselors. Some were identified as students struggling with grades or attendance. They hoped that if students became interested, then they might start coming to school on club days.
“One of the best parts about the fitness club was seeing the growth that each student achieved, not only in strength, but also in self-confidence and with relationships with peers. By the end of the year, the students were visibly more comfortable with lifting and being in the gym. They became more and more independent with the experience they gained week to week and were also much more supportive of each other, encouraging one another to push themselves and be excited for each other when they hit personal records in weight,” said Pratt.
He even noticed that the students started engaging and making friends with others in the gym, that they may have never talked to before, like football players.
Fitness club left an impact on Pratt, and he believes in its value to students. Since graduation, he accepted a position for the 2022-2023 school year, to be a middle school counselor at Pavilion Central School District. “I would love to bring it there,” he said.
“Throughout my four years in the program, I knew that school counseling was my direction, but I would not have been in the position I am in now to make an impact as a school counselor without the growth I achieved with the help of the program and support from the faculty and friends along the way,” he said. “My internship site was also a part of my experience that really shaped me and the direction I am headed. My experiences there introduced me to things like restorative practices and some of the extracurricular activities that I have a passion for now.”