Meet our new SCHOOL Fit Director, Ryan Merchant

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I am excited to become the new direct of School Fit! School Fit is a program that promotes community involvement through fitness. I will be bringing the core values of Get Fit to five elementary after-school programs in Modesto. I have been working with kids of various ages since 2010. Here’s a brief look at what led me here and what to expect in the coming year.

I was adopted at birth by the only family I have ever known. My birthmother was a mixed-race teenager from West Sacramento. Had it not been for adoption I would have been faced with quite a challenging youth. Understanding that I was graced with opportunities that I would not have had otherwise, I wanted to do my best to help eliminate as many barriers from others’ lives as I could. The only question was how to do that.

Over the years I took jobs working with children as a means to supplement my income as a student. First as a reading tutor for a kindergarten class, next as a children’s ski instructor at Sugar Bowl Resort, then as a pre-school teacher, and finally as an after-school leader in Modesto. All of these opportunities were very different from one another but one thing remained the same; I finally had the opportunity to help break down barriers for other kids who were not graced into the same family situation as I was.

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The turning point toward elementary education and away from other means of influence came as I was teaching pre-school in Eugene, Oregon. A close friend worked for the District Attorney of Lane County. He told me that earlier that day he had put the father of one of my students in prison for a myriad of offences. At this point I realized that there would be plenty of opportunities for these kids to go to jail, but very few chances to keep them out. So I finished my schooling up north and came back to Modesto intent on giving kids the tools and opportunities to stay out of jail. After working directly for the after-school program through the City of Modesto, I was given the opportunity to do the same for Get Fit.

The School Fit program will use fitness as a means to direct the focus of elementary school students toward something productive and away from deleterious infuences. I will teach the students how to work toward total fitness, and how this pursuit will help them once they enter the professional world. My goal is to expose the students to a multitude of careers including police, fire, EMT, and nursing. My plan is that through this pursuit they will be well equipped for any career, regardless of the demands, and will be able to persevere through any obstacle in a productive way. But as Mike Tyson says, everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth, so I will remain flexible as well.

It has been a long journey toward this point and I am grateful to be here, but it is just the beginning. I am looking forward to influencing as many people as I can, in as many ways as I can. Anyone who works with kids knows this will be a challenging year, but I am confident that I can never go wrong by doing the right thing.

Ryan Merchant

The 5 Schools School Fit will be in are:

Marshall

Franklin

Robertson

Kirschen

Burbank