What if you’d had SoulCycle in high school? Imagine the resistance level you could’ve cranked up to with teenage legs!
A bunch of New York City high school students are saddling up—twice a week for six weeks—as part of the SoulScholarship program, a partnership with The Children’s Aid Society and the Carrera Program, a pregnancy prevention program.
In a school system where 32% of schools have no full-time, certified gym teachers and 28% don’t even have a gym, according to a recent city report, The Children’s Aid Society wanted to find ways to make fitness a priority.
With SoulCycle, they found a good fit—and an experience most of the kids wouldn’t normally have access to.
“The reality is classes are $35. This is not doable for everybody,” says Courtney Carrera-Ghatan, assistant director for national medical and dental services at The Children’s Aid Society.
The 25 students—from Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School in the Bronx and the Urban Assembly Institute in Brooklyn—were recruited for the program by Carrera-Ghatan and her staff members who work in the schools.
After talking to several of the kids in the program after I rode with them one afternoon at the West 92nd Street studio, it was clear that SoulScholarship—which also includes nutrition classes and help with resume writing and interviewing—had made an impact on their general outlook on fitness and their own abilities.
“The days I come in, I’m more or less emotionally drained. This boosts my confidence. After I’m done with class, I instantly want to go back, no matter how tired I am,” Micah, a rising senior at Fannie Lou Hamer, told me.
As part of SoulScholarship, the kids are logging how much sleep they get, how much soda they’re drinking, whether or not they’re enjoying exercise, and how much water they drink daily. As a result, some encouraging stats have emerged.
“For the Brooklyn group, we found energy levels throughout the day increased by 15 percent,” says Kate Monaghan, a graduate student serving as SoulCycle’s program evaluator. “About 80 percent (including both groups) now enjoy exercise when they do it. That number started at 30.”
Before and after class, SoulCycle provides healthy fuel for the kids (I spotted Oatmega bars and oranges). And after each day, the students cool down by writing in their journals.
“We’re seeing directly that their self-esteem and confidence have improved, and they’re feeling a sense of community,” says Julie Koster, director of philanthropy at SoulCycle.
Anyone who has taken a SoulCycle class knows that sense of community she’s talking about: the empowered connection to your fellow riders. (Whether you find it cultish or inspiring probably depends on how much of a regular you are…)
In addition to the initial six-week fitness blast, the kids will have continued free access to SoulCycle and will be mentored by “riding buddies” selected from the cycling studios’ full-time staff.
And don’t be surprised if you see one of the SoulScholarship students leading a class one of these days, Koster says. Some of the kids showed serious interest and potential. —Amy Marturana
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