“I realized that helping people is more better than giving them materialistic things, and that’s what prompted me to want to be a health provider.”
BY NAOMI OGALDEZ
EL NUEVO SOL
Kinesiology student Jazmyn Jasso wants to change the high prevalence of diabetes in Los Angeles County by working alongside a team of fellow students in the 100 Citizens program. The free service, sponsored by the Kinesiology program at California State University, Northridge, provides San Fernando Valley residents with resources for weight loss and eating healthy.
When Jasso was 12-years-old, she went to a water park and saw children laughing and playing with animals in a dolphin pool. She wanted to enjoy that same experience, but was told it was a therapy session limited to only seniors and the disabled.
It was a surprise to see people being taken out of the pool with patient mobility machines with huge smiles on their faces, Jasso said. “How is it possible that despite their limitation they can find a reason to smile?”
Jasso, 23, will graduate from California State University, Northridge this year.
The experience in the pool was an epiphany for her. “I knew I wanted to help people improve their health and stay healthy,” Jasso said. “I realized that helping people is more better than giving them materialistic things, and that’s what prompted me to want to be a health provider. By doing so, I can give them hope and the courage to believe they have the power to rehabilitate and become healthy again.”
Jasso is a student-instructor of the “100 Citizens” Outdoor Fitness Program, the only free program that focuses on diabetes prevention in the San Fernando Valley. Each participant is assigned to a group that corresponds to their physical capacity. They also receive free workouts and nutrition education.
The program allows Jasso to empower people to adapt healthy habits that prevent illness and overcome physical limitations. Jasso has helped many program participants by encouraging them and helping them morally.
Jasso’s enthusiasm has convinced uncertain residents to stick with the program.
“When I started the program, I lost four pounds, but in a few days I gained two,” said Ana Bernal, 46, a program participant and resident of the city of San Fernando. “I became discouraged, and no longer wanted to come to the program because I did not lose the pounds I wanted, but Jazmyn encouraged me to continue.”
Jasso says that she has grown fond of the participants.
“I treat participants as if they were my family, and I try to have fun in the program,” Jasso said.
Many participants say Jasso is her favorite instructor.
“Many of the participants gravitate more towards Jasso, compared to the other instructors because she is more personal and builds relationships with us,” said María Lucía González, 50, a program participant. “Her charisma is exceptional.”
With a big smile on her face, Jasso creates a friendly atmosphere, participants said.
“When we can not do the exercise, she creates alternatives for us,” says Gonzalez, a resident of San Fernando Valley.
In addition helping people stay healthy, Jasso says the program has made her a better person.
“I’m teaching them about healthy eating habits, but I also have learned more about healthy lifestyles, and it has helped me to eat healthier,” said Jasso.
Jasso wants all of her participants to develop a healthy lifestyle, but knows how difficult it is to accomplish.
As a child, Jasso was very active in sports, doing intense exercises on a daily basis. She played basketball and danced folklórico, but after she graduated high school, she stopped exercising. She began gaining weight and struggled to lose it. As a result, she decided to study nutrition in order to develop healthier eating habits.
Jasso’s end goal is to decrease the high prevalence of diabetes in the Los Angeles County through the program, and to provide a free service to San Fernando Valley residents that helps them lose weight and eat healthy.
At the end of the morning session, approximately 60 participants gathered around Jasso as she divided them into groups and challenged them to lose a few pounds in the next six weeks.
“If participants lose 5 to 7 percent of their weight, it will help them reduce their chance of developing diabetes by 50 percent,” said Jasso.
Jasso said she is proud of her team and wants to see the program grow and expand throughout California.
“I hope we have more funds to continue the program because it has helped my community and me.”