Teaching At-Risk Teenagers About Careers In Personal Training

Every day, numerous individuals are put in high risk situations that decrease the overall quality of life and put them in harms way. Many of these individuals, unfortunately, are involved in gangs and other groups that promote violence and destruction. Younger members of society who are exposed to this, are usually pulled into the heat of the moment quickly and without much choice. Because of this, the cycle of individuals put into these situations are largely generational and hard to break out of. InnerCity Weightlifting, a company based out of Boston, focus’ on taking these high risk individuals, and teaching them about the career of personal training and fitness. Not only does this teach them valuable skills that can be applied into a career in the future, but it also keeps them off the street in general. Recently, I got to partner with InnerCity Weightlifting and a local high risk high school in Chicago, Illinois to provide a virtual personal training class for students. This position helped me sharpen my skills as a teacher, in addition to learning more about the underserved populations in these inner-city areas.

My Experience Teaching At-Risk Teenagers About Careers In Personal Training

My experience teaching at risk teenagers at a local high school in Chicago was one that I won’t forget. To document my thoughts, and give guidance on everything, I will split up this post into the following:

  1. Virtual Teaching Logistics
  2. Preparing for Class and Teaching
  3. Making an Impact

Virtual Teaching Logistics

One of the best and worst things that came out of the Covid-19 pandemic was the heavy increase in the use of learning through virtual mediums. Whether it was zoom classes, recorded lessons, or various other forms of online learning, teaching through a computer has been the norm for the last couple of years. The good thing with this, is that it has reminded people just how far your reach can truly be through the use of technology. For example, I would not have been able to teach this class without the use of technology. Since I currently live in Iowa, I would not be able to commute 2.5 hours to Chicago and 2.5 hours back home every day. (Technically I could, but this would not be ideal by any means.) Through the use of zoom, we were able to stream a video of myself, to the class of students at the high school I was teaching at in Chicago. This was great for myself, as it freed up a good amount of time in my day to teach. Only a little bit of preparation work was needed to be done before the actual class itself. Once the class started, I simply logged on, taught for an hour or so, and logged off. No commute to a workplace or even time lost setting up for class. With that said, not everything was ideal. Due to the fact that the class was virtual, there were numerous times where internet was slow, computers were glitching, and something just wasn’t working. In addition to this, gaining respect from the students, and anyone you are teaching, is much harder to do through a virtual class. You simply don’t have as good of a “feeling,” both as a teacher, and as a student. That loss of connection from being in person, was clearly evident for myself, and the students. With that said, I think there is always a time and place for virtual teaching. I think it opens the door for more connections across the globe. This does bring up a cost of not having as quality of classes, but of course there are pros and cons to both.

Preparing for Class and Teaching

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, there was only a little bit of preparation work that I actually needed to do before the class. InnerCity Weightlifting had a decent amount of information put together that they use for their in-person personal training teachings. I was able to use this rough outline to write up the given lesson plan for the day. After that, I filmed some videos, pulled some off of YouTube, and added some diagrams to my lesson plan. During the class, I simply shared my screen for whatever I had for the day and went off from there. Teaching the information itself was a little bit tougher, due to not being able to command the room as well as I could have in person. Thankfully, there was a support liaison in the class that was able to keep the class on task during times. Even though there was this liaison, it was still not easy to run the show virtually. One of the things that I enjoyed was the ability to work on my teaching and coaching skills through this experience. Trying to find ways to connect with the students, especially in their tough upbringings, was not always the easiest thing to do. This challenged me as a coach and teacher and helped me practice some of the skills needed to be a better communicator. This is actually one of the reasons that I took on this job to begin with.

Making an Impact

By far the biggest reason I wanted to help out with InnerCity Weightlifting, and this experience, is the actual population I was working with. Through most of my coaching and fitness experience, I have worked with individuals with special needs and seniors. These populations are often underserved and even stigmatized in society for a variety of reasons. Because of this, working with individuals at-risk of being in high-crime situations seemed like a fitting job for me. I have always enjoyed teaching about fitness and health, but like the “social” aspect of the work that isn’t typically found when teaching to individuals that would be considered general population. This was my first experience actually working with this population in society. I have spent most of my fitness and health career working with seniors and individuals with disabilities. With that said, the transition from working with the students at the high school was seamless, and offered me a unique perspective with at-risk youth. Day to day when I was teaching class, it was hard to gauge if I was truly making an impact on the students I was working with. There were some classes were there were only a couple of students who actually showed up to class. The students who did show up to class were often mute and did not always offer their full attention. Even with this, there were times that some of the students actually interacted well, and even recalled information from previous classes. This was very meaningful for me, because it showed that even in their tough lives outside of school, they still took something from my class. One of the coolest experiences of the teaching was the final exam for class. The school I was helping work for actually paid for me to come out and do the final exam at the school. Through this, I was able to meet all of the students in person, assess their final, and learn about their upbringings and hardships in life. Although it was a long semester, the in-person final exam showed me even the small impact I had on the students.


As mentioned, the organization that I worked with in affiliation was InnerCity Weightlifting. This company is based out of Boston, Massachusetts, and offers a great framework in tackling racism and violence in at-risk individuals. To learn more about InnerCity Weightlifting and what they have to offer, feel free to visit their website here.

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