That is why just months after it was announced that John Ericsson Middle School 126 pulled out from the depths into becoming a top-ranked school, Principal Marcos Bauch has taken new steps in tackling the obesity epidemic with a state-of-the-art fitness facility in his school.
“We decided to create a fitness room where we can begin to teach students about healthy living, working out, exercise and a balanced diet,” Bausch said. “One of the things that came to mind was offering a new dynamic in terms of fitness in the vein of trying to combat childhood obesity, diabetes and asthma and all the things that a lot of our kids in inner-city schools deal with.”
The new space, located in a spare classroom on the first floor of the A-ranked middle school, has been kept secret from the students for the last month while Bausch and the staff brought in the new Cybex cardio equipment, free weights set, barbells, Stairmaster and more.
Bausch added that numerous teachers at his school are in fact certified trainers, something he is confident will only add to the fully functional workout facility by getting his students excited about exercise.
“The thinking was to make the school more attractive in terms of offering things for the students,” he said. “It will be an offering during the day, an offshoot of the physical education requirement.”
M.S. 126 teacher Sonya “The Scholar” Lamonakis has taught for the last 13 years, but she is also a top-ranked professional boxer.
“This is awesome,” Lamonakis said, standing in the new gym last week. “A gym like this would cost $100 a month in New York City.”
The four-time Gold Gloves Champion and No. 2-ranked professional heavyweight female fighter in the world said she looks forward to getting the kids into the new gym and training them the right way to use the equipment.
“When a child is growing, you don’t use heavy amounts of weight because their body is growing so rapidly and you try to do less weight and more reps,” she said. “If used correctly this can be very effective. If we instruct the children how to use it, it’s going to be a great thing.”
Lamonakis has a lot of experience working with children in the gym, as she also runs a charity called Give a Kid a Dream out of Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO to help inner-city kids get free training while keeping them up on their grades.
“I want to help them not just as a fighter in the ring, but out of the ring as a complete person,” she said. “When your body starts changing and you start feeling better and stronger, kids’ personalities change because they get more confident.”
It could still be some time before the new gym is up and running, however Bausch said he hopes the new facility would bring additional interest to his school.
“In the end, we’re always recruiting and trying to attract more students, and trying to separate ourselves from the other middle schools in terms of our physical plan and our school facilities,” Bausch said.