For an hour after school, Kilgore kids are getting fit, learning discipline and being steered onto the right path in life.
About 20 KISD students meet in a converted warehouse space on Harris Street Monday through Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. to practice squats, push-ups and other exercises at the Ignition Station. Hannah Beets, physical education teacher at Chandler Elementary, got the idea to combine the workouts from her CrossFit class with her passion to work with kids and help them excel mentally and physically.
When she learned a warehouse space was opening up next to CrossFit Kilgore, she saw an opportunity.
“I've always wanted to work with kids, Beets said. “I had a long-distance idea of having something for kids and when this opened up it was like, well, this could be a good location. The idea was providing a place where they could come for free.
Offering the classes at Ignition Station for free is not easy but it's an important part of the group.
“About 70 percent of our school district is low-income. That's why it's free. Now that we're non-profit, which we just got at the end of last year, now we can have a lot of donations which has been very helpful, Beets said.
When the group was first created, it was dependent on the time and money of the volunteers who worked there. Now, a year and a half after beginning, more donations can come in but more help is always appreciated.
The group is open to all ages and kids can join in a variety of ways.
“It's open to anyone, Beets said. “We want anyone to be able to come but we also try to pick people who will be good influences in our community.
Sometimes she'll pick a kid who seems like a good fit for the group or who can be a good influence on their peers. Sometimes a group member will tell a friend who will want to join. No matter how they get there, all Ignition Station members learn to work hard, work together and to compete with honor.
The walls inside the Ignition Station are painted with Bible verses and inspirational quotes from figures like Lance Armstrong and Abraham Lincoln. Also on the walls are phrases encouraging the students to try their best and never give up.
“Don't stop when you are tired, stop when you are done, says one.
The kids meet with Coach Beets and begin the session by naming things their peers did to help them or the group. They then recite a Bible verse by reading along on a dry-erase board and then see who can recite the verse from memory.
After that, it's time to warm up and work out.
On Thursday, the kids were practicing front squats. They stretched their legs and backs to prepare then each took up a hollow length of PVC pipe to hold at chest level. This helps them practice their form without the heavy weights used by adult CrossFitters.
Kids who do good in the class earn a PVC pipe which is filled with cement and capped (the kids help with this process) so they can work out with real weight.
Beets believes the combination of physical training and character-building really pays off for the kids.
“We do character lessons, too, she said. “Hopefully, it will help them. Some of these kids go home and they don't have anything to do, or they do, but the parents have to pay. This helps the parents save some money. We've seen some benefits. It gives them a place to belong. Kids who have had problems with their attitudes, since we give them attention, we start seeing more positive attitudes at school. Also, just knowing that someone cares about you, we've seen some positive changes.
To learn more about the Ignition Station, or to find out how you can support the organization, call Hannah Beets at 903-812-9037 or visit www.Facebook.com/IgnitionStationETX.