School fitness program reviewed for business ties

January 4, 2013
By

EGLESTON SQ.—A new physical fitness program at Greater Egleston Community High School (GECHS) is under review by Boston Public Schools (BPS) following Gazette questions about its relationship to a fitness supplement business.

Generation Fitness, or Gen/Fit, is GECHS Dean of Students Kwadwo Mike Thompson’s program. Students sign up for off-campus, non-team activities like rock-climbing, led by Thompson.

But Thompson is also a Team BeachBody “coach” who sells his personal training services and BeachBody equipment on the same website where he promotes the Gen/Fit program. He is also developing a reality TV series called “Project: Reject” he said was “inspired by” the Gen/Fit program.

Team BeachBody is a multi-level marketing company that produces products like the P90X, Insanity and Hip Hop Abs training programs as well as nutritional supplements.

“BeachBody is not connected with BPS or with [GECHS],” Thompson said. “It’s an outside program…It’s not promoted on or near the school and [its products] are not sold during Gen/Fit activities.”

“We’re looking into it…What we want to look at is, is he marketing to students?” BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder told the Gazette. “There’s no evidence to suggest it. Thompson has very good intentions.”

“We just want to make sure it’s being done in the right way,” Wilder added.

According to Thompson, he uses the proceeds from his BeachBody business to fund Gen/Fit at GECHS. The TV series is still being pitched to networks, he said, and does not seem to be under active development.

Last week, the Gen/Fit website was taken offline following Gazette inquiries. While it was live, the website promoted the Gen/Fit program with pictures of GECHS teens alongside BeachBody programs and products with photos of other teens.

Thompson’s website included male teenage models promoting P90X use with shirtless before-and-after pictures and a discount for signing up for the BeachBody program.

“The teens on the [BeachBody part of the] website were not BPS students,” Wilder said.

Thompson, who told the Gazette he is a certified personal trainer, came up with Gen/Fit, a different program for individual physical activities that BPS students can engage in, last year.

“We wanted a program that was fun, healthy and would encourage teens to get off the couch and get active. We also took into account that fact that most traditional sports were competitive and often left kids on the bench,” Thompson told the Gazette. “Gen/Fit is less competitive and our activities keep the students constantly moving.”

GECHS’s Gen/Fit students meet three to four times a week, including one weekly off-school-grounds challenge. Recently, that challenge took the students to junior firefighter training and obstacle course races.

“[Students] are informed during the interview that some of the activities will be extreme—but safe,” Thompson said.

The program offers personal coaching, group counseling, nutritional coaching, fitness workshops and physical activities like ropes courses, rock-climbing and ice skating beside the weekly challenges. Students receive a grade for their participation that is based on their attendance and effort.

After starting the program last year with a mere eight students, Gen/Fit now has 30 participants. Thompson said he’d like to expand the program further and open satellite programs in two other BPS schools in the next year.

“We are working closely with the Boston Public Schools Health and Wellness Department to connect with high schools that currently do not have PE [physical education] programs,” Thompson said. “Many charter, pilot and other non-traditional schools are looking for creative ways to educate their students.”

Students must sign up for the program, Thompson said. Due to lack of funding, however, Gen/Fit cannot accept every student that applies.

“Our goal is to accept students who are willing to challenge themselves, mentally, emotionally, and physically,” Thompson said. “They are selected on their willingness to try. [But] it is hard to turn people away.”

GECHS is located at 80 School St. Gen/Fit’s url is MyGenFit.org. The website was offline at the Gazette’s deadline.

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