By Angela Hickman, Zumba® Instructor and Hammer Volunteer
In the spring of 2011, I was the Assistant Program Manager at Zealand, one of Hammer’s apartment programs. A main goal of mine was incorporating health and fitness into the lives of those we were supporting. Many individuals were making great progress by choosing healthier foods and exercising more, but one person in particular was struggling to embrace the idea of exercise.
Then one day, we were hanging out in the community apartment and Joe S., the resident goofball and Michael Jackson enthusiast, decided to bring up one of his favorite CDs. As soon as he turned on the music, everyone got up to dance. All of a sudden, it dawned on me – if you make exercise about having fun and center it on an activity people enjoy, it no longer seems like exercise!
I had recently participated in my first Zumba® class a few weeks before this impromptu dance party, and I wondered what it would take for me to become a Zumba® Instructor. After some research, I found out it was quite simple. There was a certification training coming to Minnesota in a couple weeks, so I signed myself up! Then, I reached out to Katie Bottiger, the Director of Advocacy & Volunteer Resources at the time, to propose that Hammer offer a FREE Zumba® Fitness class to residents, with me as the instructor. I was so excited when I found out Hammer supported my idea! (One of the greatest things about Hammer is how they encourage both their employees and everyone we serve to learn, grow and imagine the possibilities.)
Once I was certified, I took time to choose music, create choreography and practice. I was finally ready for my first class, and for some reason I was extremely nervous! I shouldn’t have been though because it went wonderfully. The individuals we support loved it, and many of the Zealanders were in attendance, including the individual who had been opposed to exercise!
We have now been offering this class for over four years, and it continues to be popular. The room is always packed and buzzing with energy. I have taught other classes at gyms and recreation centers, but teaching at Hammer has always been my favorite. It’s not just because I love the organization’s mission and the people we support. It’s also because the people we support are the best students; they’re energetic, always have a smile on their face, and not afraid to make a mistake. They know it’s not about getting the steps right, it’s about having fun and moving!
I recently transitioned from a Hammer employee to volunteer. I am so happy I am able to continue teaching Zumba® at Hammer. It is one of the most rewarding and uplifting things I get to do in my life, and it offers a fun way for the people we support to get exercise without having to spend any money. And to think, this may not have happened if I hadn’t had the opportunity to imagine the possibilities.