New fitness center unveiled at Slater Middle School

New fitness center unveiled at Slater Middle School

Slater Middle School unveiled its new $100,000 “Don’t Quit” fitness center on Monday. The fitness room was a gift from the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, founded by Jake “Body by Jake” Steinfeld. Above, Jahiem Tavares, grade 7, crosses the monkey bars at the new fitness center. (Breeze photos by Nicole Dotzenrod)

PAWTUCKET – Slater Middle School was buzzing with excitement on Monday as students and dignitaries gathered for the unveiling of the school’s new, $100,000 “Don’t Quit” fitness center.

The fitness room, which includes exercise machines and other workout equipment, was a gift from the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, founded by Jake “Body by Jake” Steinfeld.

“I was a really overweight kid with a bad stutter. In 7th grade, my dad bought me a set of weights. Not only did they help me build my body, but my confidence and self-esteem as well. Those weights changed my life,” Steinfeld told students.

He went on to become chairman of the California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 before he was named the chairman of the NFGFC in 2012. He was one of the first individuals to make fitness training into a career.

Steinfeld said he hopes the fitness centers installed by his organization will help fight childhood obesity and inspire students to never give up on their goals.

“Academics and fitness go hand-in-hand,” Steinfeld said, adding that there’s evidence to support the link between increased physical activity with lower absenteeism, higher focus and achievement among students.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is all about the kids,” he said. “We found that when teachers get in the fitness centers with kids, if a kid is having a tough time in the classroom there’s a special friendship that happens in the fitness center.”

“If you give a school the tools it’s amazing to see what can happen,” he added.

The NFGFC program has now rolled out in 28 states and will be putting fitness centers in all 50 states. Each fitness center is financed through public/private partnerships with companies like The Coca-Cola Company, Anthem Foundation, Wheels Up and Nike, and does not rely on taxpayer dollars or state funding.

This year, R.I. was one of four states selected for the program. More than 65 elementary and middle schools applied for a “Don’t Quit” fitness center by creating a short video about their school’s current fitness programs.

“For the size of your state the amount of responses we got was overwhelming,” Steinfeld said.

Mayor Donald Grebien, who went to Samuel Slater, said he was excited about the latest transformation there.

“That’s what it’s all about ... the community. It’s a neighborhood and we all have to give back,” Steinfeld said. “It really makes me feel great. I lose faith at times, but meeting kids, teachers and parents gives you a sense of enthusiasm and brings that excitement back.”

Rhode Island is the 29th state to receive a “Don’t Quit” center.

“Someone once said, Jake comes into a school like Santa with a 34-inch waist. Thirty-three, but I’ll take it,” he said.

Slater Principal Michael Cordeiro said he told students on the first day of school that they would study hard and play harder. “Today is the play harder piece,” he told the students.

Seventh-grader Jennifer Soars is cheered on by Jake Steinfeld, chairman of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, as she tries out equipment at Samuel Slater Middle School’s new “Don’t Quit! Fitness Center.”
“Don’t quit!” yell students, along with Steinfeld, Principal Michael Cordeiro, Mayor Donald Grebien, and Interim Pawtucket Supt. Cheryl McWilliams.