Sam Fant was sweating.
The 27-year-old Manteca Unified School District trustee decked out in a Cougar Pride T-shirt and sweatpants was moving to Zumba music in the August Knodt School cafeteria Tuesday morning.
Fant along with 40 plus women — most that walked their kids to school then lined up waiting for the cafeteria door to open for the free exercise class just before 9 a.m. — was getting in a workout.
But as Maries Flores can tell you, it’s more than that.
It has helped many of the women — most who are mothers of August Knodt School — relieve stress, reduce weight, eliminate back and body aches, get them more involved in both the school and community, and set an example for their own kids when it comes to a healthier lifestyle from exercise to nutrition.
“It lets people get to know each other,” Flores said.
Modern neighborhoods tend to isolate people. Weston Ranch is a prime example of 20th century-style California development. There are more than 17,000 residents in the Stockton planned community that has few shopping options and even fewer amenities.
The closest health club is 20 minutes away by freeway.
Eight years ago several women who had been exercising on their own got together at Paul E. Weston adjacent to August Knodt School. Fant a year ago noticed the group that typically had 20 or so participants. They gathered each school day after dropping their children off at August Knodt. But if it rained or there was inclement weather they didn’t meet.
Fant stepped up.
Next door to the park was the August Knodt School that represented a $25 million investment by taxpayers including the women meeting for the group exercise class. He knew there had been talk of the need for a community center in Weston Ranch which often times tends to be off the radar of Stockton City Hall due to its location. But that made no sense to him given the community had facilities that weren’t being used 100 percent — the school campuses.
Fant opened doors — figuratively and literally. Eight individuals agreed to be fingerprinted to serve as volunteers to make sure the cafeteria stayed secured and all school rules were followed. Then eight months ago the class moved into the cafeteria during 9 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday when it wasn’t being used. Since the instructor volunteers her own time, uses her own portable sound system and there is no cost to the district since the lights would be on anyway, the class is free.
August Knodt School Principal Sherryl Price said that when students have their mothers accompany them to school to take an exercise class it drives home the point that health and fitness are important.
“Schools are the hub of a community,” Price noted as she pointed out why it is logical to have such a class and other community activities at a school.
The students decided to name the class in honor of Fant — Fitness, Aerobics, Nutrition, Training.
It’s the same class that drew the ire of the San Joaquin County Grand Jury that contends Fant went outside of channels to allow the class to meet in the cafeteria.
Fant, for his part, notes that District Superintendent Jason Messer and much of the school board are supportive of making the cafeteria available for the exercise class.
That grand jury report is part of the reason why Fant is a target of a recall.
The class — and not the recall attempt — has Fant sweating.
And the sweat is worth it.
One faithful exerciser — Monica Campos — tells how the class has been a godsend helping to eliminate her back aches.
Another tells of how the friendships built from the exercise class has helped her as a single mom deal with the death of her husband.
Then there is the mom worried about her overweight son that loves pizza who said taking he class has inspired her to try to help her son get healthier. She started with making pizza with zucchini and went from there. Her son has already started losing weight.
“This,” Fant said of the class, “helps re-enforce what we are trying to teach in school for students to have healthy lifestyles.”
It also helps brings the Weston Ranch community together.
The class has more than doubled since it came in from the cold. There are some grandmothers of school students in the class plus several women who live in the attendance areas of other schools that heard about the class and have joined it.
Karen King, who is moving, said she worries that she won’t have access to an exercise class built around her children’s school such as the one Fant helped put in place.
“This has made a big difference for me,” King noted.
And while there are a number that English is a second language for, it doesn’t pose a problem in class.
“Dance is a language everyone understands,” noted Bertha Camacho.
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