“100 Citizens is one significant vehicle for students to gain experiences that all employers will value,” CSUN Kinesiology professor Steven Loy says, “including skills in interpersonal communication, leadership, program direction, staff management, to name a few.”
By SARAH STEVENS
EL NUEVO SOL
It is 6:30 AM on a unusually cold Friday morning at El Cariso Community Regional Park in Sylmar, CA. The grass still covered in frost, and the sun not even up yet, as people from the community gather for their morning exercise class. This particular class isn’t just an ordinary workout run by professional instructors, it’s a form of community service run by kinesiology students from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). These students are investing time in the community, but they’re also making a valuable investment in their own futures.
They are part of the 100 Citizens program developed by Professor Steven Loy at CSUN, as a way to both improve the overall health and physical fitness of underserved Los Angeles communities, and create future jobs for local CSU Kinesiology students who are a part of an increasingly popular major.
The American Kinesiology Association named Kinesiology one of the fastest-growing majors, and in 2014 it became the most popular at CSUN, with a total of 2,266 students.
Molly Lasika, 27, a CSUN alum is all too-familiar with the struggle to find employment in her field. After graduating in 2011 with her B.A in Kinesiology, she found herself unemployed as many recent graduates do. Lasika grew up with a fascination for physical fitness at a very young age and had high hopes of becoming a personal trainer. After seven months of struggling to find a position, she landed a job at 24 Hour Fitness–but not as a trainer, as a front desk receptionist.
“At that point I was just happy to be hired somewhere,” says Lasika, “and at least closer to the position I wanted, but I did begin to have doubts and considered applying for jobs outside of my desired field.” After working the receptionist position for eight months, she decided to move back to her hometown of Sacramento and pursue her Masters in Kinesiology at California State University, Sacramento.
“I decided to pursue my Masters because I felt like it would give me an advantage against other applicants when applying for jobs,” she said. ”My father would constantly remind me of his favorite quote, ‘if you don’t build your own dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs,’ I felt like my life was slowly creeping up to the latter, in order to prevent myself from giving up I decided instead of relying on someone else to make my dream happen, I should just do it myself. It was then I set out to pursue a new goal of starting my own personal training business.”
Lasika completed her master’s program six months ago and will begin pursuing her business license in May 2015. A master’s degree may increase students chances of obtaining a job, but what about students who can’t afford to pursue their Masters, or make the decision not to? What choices do they have in creating their own career?
Steven Loy, 59, the CSUN Kinesiology professor who created 100 Citizens thinks the solution lies within that program. He developed it to educate underserved Los Angeles Communities on health and physical fitness by providing them with free sustainable workouts, while simultaneously creating an environment in which kinesiology students could thrive while building their resume. Loy believes no matter what the declared major a student may have, in order to have a successful career he or she must actively participate in creating it.
“There is a need to have an entrepreneurial pioneering spirit to carve new ground and new opportunities,” says Loy. “This means understanding what your education can provide and seeking out opportunities that can benefit from what one has to offer.”
Loy is determined to get his 100 Citizens program adopted, and paid for, throughout the state of California. It is his hope that other kinesiology students can be hired as a way to help communities in the state become physically better and prevent diseases that cost more money to the state such as diabetes and heart disease.
“This is where we are at with public health,” says Loy. “It is a new frontier that has not been explored and thus there is the need to ‘show’ people, companies, and institutions, how valuable we can be. 100 Citizens is such a program that can expose others to what Kinesiology can do.”
The 100 Citizens program has added another program called “Friday Morning Warriors,” to help the community become more physically fit by providing them access to free sustainable workouts. The program meets every Friday morning from 6:30 a.m. to 7:15 a.m. in El Cariso Park in Sylmar. Similar to an internship, any student can get involved in the Friday Morning Warriors program, and according to Professor Loy, the type of knowledge you will gain can’t be taught in a classroom.
“100 Citizens is one significant vehicle for students to gain experiences that all employers will value,” he says, “including skills in interpersonal communication, leadership, program direction, staff management, to name a few.”
Esteban Campa, 26 is just one of the many success stories to come out of participating in this program.
“After enrolling and successfully completing the course KIN 446 taught by Doctor Steven Loy, I was eager to apply my classroom knowledge, military experience, and discover my academic and professional potential,” Campa says. By utilizing the personal skills he already possessed, Campa was not only able bring something unique to the Friday Morning Warriors program, but he was able to gain a stronger professional knowledge of his own.
“My involvement in the program was considerably great because of the growth I gained,” he says. “For instance, I engaged in conversations, meetings, and discussions with various people from different careers related to my degree. Many of the presented opportunities allowed me to gain insight on capabilities and capacities that I did not know were there. I am grateful to have been involved in this program because I gained life and career-related experience, friendship, and a job on campus.”
Campa is living proof of exactly what Loy and his program seek to accomplish. 100 Citizens and the Friday Morning Warriors program were not available to Lasika when she attended CSUN, and she wonders if being involved would have taken her on a different path.
“After researching and hearing about 100 Citizens, I am a little disappointed I was not able to participate in it while I was in school,” says Lasika. “I wonder if it would have allowed me to make connections which could have helped me gain a job much faster than I have now.”
According to Loy, the struggle for employment after college isn’t just unique to kinesiology students, it applies to everyone,
“There is the need for students to seek and acquire a variety of quality experiences,” says Loy, “often times, these experiences are not sought out until late in their education, when they would have been better served earlier on and may have resulted in valuable changes to their future.”