Passing of Light Alumni Take Lead To Improve Life For Under-Resourced Students
Upon graduating in 2001, my wife Erin and I moved to Atlanta to pursue our careers. Erin began work in public relations, and I was placed at Booker T. Washington High School as part of the Teach for America program. Living in such a large urban environment was quite a departure from the middleclass white neighborhood in northeast Ohio where we had both grown up. We immediately embraced the city life, but soon became very aware of the vast racial and socioeconomic inequalities that plagued Atlanta and our country.
Many of my students lacked basic comprehension and high-order thinking skills – an indictment of the poor education system that kept moving them right along. Many also lacked the ability to socially interact effectively, which combined with the comprehension problem, created apathetic, disillusioned students. It became obvious that the students in this school didn’t simply take on this attitude. It had been learned through years of being pushed to the back burner.
Watching me struggle for three years with how to improve life for under-resourced students, Erin decided to become a teacher herself . After finishing a teacher alternative preparation program, she was placed in an inner-city middle school where she witnessed the same sort of injustices. In response to what we saw, we immersed our selves in our respective schools, coaching basketball, track and cross-country, and continuing to develop lasting relationships with some students. In our classrooms, our students made tremendous gains, but we still felt as if our hands were tied at times by the red tape and bureaucracy of a large school system. Though we created change within our small classroom communities, we wanted to
create systemic change that would affect more children.
In 2005, we took a step in that direction by forming FitWit – a company devoted to quality fitness (FIT) and tutoring (WIT) programs. We ran the initial programs part-time, while we still both taught full-time. The following year, we launched an adult fitness component that turned into an extremely popular program – so much
so that we were able to concentrate on these fitness camps full-time in 2007. However, these adult fitness programs invariably took some resources away from the student programs, and in 2008 we found it necessary to recommit to the origins of FitWit.
With the help of Ben Thoele ’00, we founded The FitWit Foundation – a non-prof it organization created to combat childhood obesity and education inequality in the under-resourced communities of Atlanta. Though two completely separate entities, FitWit donates 5 percent of its profits from every adult fitness camp to The FitWit
Foundation. The FitWit Foundation is then able to create exciting fitness and tutoring programs that are then offered free to low-income young people in the
As we move into 2009 with Thoele leading the charge as the executive director, we plan to extend our reach into math and reading programs, and a teen leadership summer camp program. Although the hours are long and sometimes it’s difficult to find the fruits of our labor, we’re doing what we love, and we hope it’s making a difference in young people’s lives.
–Josh Guerreri ‘01