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Spelman College: Ditching Sports For Fitness!

Hands down no questions asked, one of the best decisions I ever made was attending Spelman College. I loved every second of those four years, and almost ten years later I am more grateful now than I was when I passed through those pearly gates. I’m honored to be part of such an outstanding legacy and was prouder than ever when I read about the college’s recent courageous decision to eliminate their athletic department for a campus wide Wellness Revolution. By re-channeling the sports funding into this program, and by making plans towards building an $18 million state-of-the-art fitness facility, Spelman College is certainly living up to the college’s mission more than ever – “empowering the total person.” I had the privilege to recently visit my beloved alma mater and chat with current students about this revolution and like me, I am sure you will see how this decision is appropriately named- it is truly “Revolutionary!”

The news that more than half of Spelman’s students have high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes or are obese was initially shocking to receive. But then as I reminisced on my own non-existent healthy behaviors during college, I quickly understood how this information was true. I grew up an athlete and like most of my Spelman sisters, sweating was one of the many layers that comprised our “All-American- well rounded- AP/honors-volunteering-president of every club-high school career.” However for 4 years the only sweating I did was at college parties (which P.S. were legitimate workouts) and my fruits and veggies intake was usually coupled with either the campus cafeteria’s fried chicken on Wednesdays or fried fish on Fridays. So I get it, I could have easily graduated with one of these diseases in tote. It wasn’t like I didn’t like to exercise…it just wasn’t the “in” or “available” thing to do on campus at the time.

However when I went to graduate school immediately upon graduation I was running and group exercising like the FitGirl I remembered being in high school. Why was this I wondered? The answer? Access. Although my MFA Acting Graduate program required every ounce of my life for three years I still found time to be healthy and active. The healthy food options were plentiful both on and off the campus of The University of Texas, Austin and the renowned NCAA Division I athletic department and student fitness facilities (yes plural…) were only a hop skip and a jump away. People were ridding their bikes everywhere, running the trail at Town Lake and walking sometimes close to a mile from class to class. I remember immediately thinking, “This is so different than Spelman….I wish my sisters and I had this. Hopefully one day future Spelmanites will.” I was so into fitness and being healthy during those 3 years that my current career quickly evolved- while at UT I got certified as both a group fitness instructor and personal trainer, and spent hours both teaching classes and training clients in between rehearsing Shakespeare. To say the least..it was RAD.

So to see that years later my prayers were answered I literally feel to my knees in gratitude when I learned that the college’s president Dr. Beverly Tatum had redirected the college’s annual $1 million intercollegiate sports budget — programs serving about 80 students — into a campus wide “fitness revolution” that benefits all 2,100 budding leaders. This decision was the perfect example of what meeting opportunity when it knocks looks like. When the NCAA Division III intercollegiate athletic programing was revamping Dr. Tatum saw this as a opportunity to address the epidemic of chronic illnesses that affected these students and jumped on the opportunity to serve the entire campus and no longer just a fraction.

In the short time since it’s inception, the Wellness Revolution has had a campus wide 5K and has opened the doors to many of the campus’ facilities in order to house group based exercise classes such as kickboxing and Zumba.

Many alum are in support of this movement and current students feel like this revolution is a great way to incorporate the competitiveness balance that sports gave them growing up. Reporting that their newfound physical activity has enhanced their academic achievements as well as their emotional and mental wellness.

Watch out world, this is just the beginning of a tremendous effort that I am confident will ripple out into our communities once these now fully equipped Spelman Woman exit those beloved pearly gates. More to come as this program revolutionizes.

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