Fitness for Everyone | LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership

Fitness for Everyone: A Service Story


LSU senior Victoria Cantelli spent her summer engaged in a community-based internship born out of a passion for fitness and a service-learning course she took during the Spring 2015 semester.

Through Dr. Lisa Johnson’s service-learning class, Kinesiology 3535: Exercise Testing and Prescription, Victoria, a Kinesiology – Fitness Concentration major, was introduced to community members participating in the Sensational Seniors Fitness Program at the Leo S. Butler Community Center.  Victoria and the other kinesiology students enrolled in this course worked with Fitness Director Theresa Townsend to execute one hour fitness classes for senior citizens three times a week. Over the course of the semester, Victoria observed and assessed a need in the senior fitness classes; many of the participants had limited mobility, but only had weights for training.  Senior citizens are often wary of using weights and, according to fitness experts, in some cases such equipment can do more harm than good in an aging body due to muscle and bone deterioration.  Because of LSU courses such as Kinesiology 3535 and Kinesiology 3534: Scientific Basis for Exercise, when Victoria started a summer internship at the Butler Center, she knew the solution: resistance bands.  Resistance bands can give people an opportunity to build muscle without straining their joints, and are easier to manage for senior citizens.  Unfortunately, the Fitness Center did not have the budget to purchase the much needed equipment, inspiring Victoria to act. She set out to raise the money herself.

In order to raise the funds to purchase resistance bands, Victoria started by contacting the company that manufactures the resistance bands she wanted to acquire.  A representative said that he could get her a bulk discount if she could raise the funds.  Her goal was $400.  Each Wednesday during the month of July, Victoria threw a different fund-raiser: a Dance-A-Thon, a bake sale, a pot luck, and a raffle of gift cards donated by companies such as Whole Foods Market® and Nothing Bundt Cakes®.  In addition, she received financial donations from Structural Consultants and Mr. Mark Cantelli.  Despite the success of these events, Victoria encountered her biggest obstacle at this critical juncture.  Upon trying to reestablish contact with the previously helpful company representative, she could not find him.  It seemed he had left the company during the interim of their first conversation and her next attempt to make contact with him.  Their deal to buy the bands at a bulk discount looked like it was not going to happen.  Thanks to Victoria’s hard work and the willingness of the community to stand united, it did not matter.  The efforts raised over $1200 and the Fitness Center can now purchase the bands without the discount.  For Victoria, “seeing the enthusiasm and excitement from all the members” over the course of the fund-raiser, and seeing it come to fruition so successfully was its own reward.

Victoria Cantelli’s family moved to Maryland from Louisiana when she was ten years old, but she knew she wanted to come back.  As she grew, LSU still loomed large in her mind’s eye, and she moved back as a transfer student to the place in which she felt most at home to complete her undergraduate studies.  Victoria quickly adapted to the LSU campus, finding the best spots on campus like the quad and Mike’s habitat.  Though she had returned to the state she loved, she had developed a desire to participate in, and teach, fitness classes in Maryland that led to her decision to major in kinesiology.  Majoring in this field opens the door for students to learn about the body, the way it moves, and to help understand the nuances of making it function to the best of its abilities. Dr. Johnson’s course was a great way to learn about kinesiology. The class and the subsequent internship made Victoria realize, “the best way to learn and the best way to become successful is…to practice”.  This sentiment reflects the very reason Dr. Johnson began to teach this service-learning course ten years ago.  Victoria’s message about taking a service-learning course is to, “do it. Absolutely do it.”  She considers it one of her best LSU experiences.

Victoria’s project will have long-term benefits far beyond her internship at the Fitness Center, and even her time at LSU.  Dr. Johnson believes that this project will add, “another opportunity for future students to design exercise routines with a special type of resistance band.  This will create an additional challenge for them to refine their abilities to develop unique exercise programs for special populations”.

The success of Victoria’s project and Dr. Johnson’s service-learning partnership with Theresa Townsend and the Leo Butler Community Center is an illustration of what can happen when LSU and the Baton Rouge community unite for a common goal.  Her efforts will have a long-reaching impact as well; using resistance bands has long term benefits for senior citizens.  Exercise gives seniors increased mobility and independence, and decreases incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.  As Victoria takes one more step toward her goal of going into corporate fitness and getting certified to teach yoga, she leaves a better equipped Fitness Center, and future opportunities for the long-term collaboration between the Leo S. Butler Community Center and LSU.