When it comes to building a stronger Austin, community engagement is key.
– By Jose Rodriguez, Stronger Austin Intern, Spring 2019
Stronger Austin’s commitment to community engagement is in the mission statement of the It’s Time Texas program: “Driven by community input, Stronger Austin’s founding partners joined together with Austin residents, agencies, businesses, and nonprofits to create more accessible health and wellness programs across the city. For many of Austin’s most historically underserved neighborhoods, relevant services aren’t a reality. Programs that are costly or hard to get to block participation.”
Working as a class monitor, I’ve had the privilege of being able to engage with community members and community partners to not only grow the Stronger Austin name but also create a supportive and positive environment for exercise class participants. Having the opportunity to interact with community members who regularly attend courses has been one of the best aspects of my internship with the organization.
When attending class, a class monitor is responsible for welcoming and signing in all returning community members and ensuring new attendees sign a waiver. During the 30 minutes before class begins, class monitors get a chance to talk to class attendees and catch up with instructors and site staff. The time spent talking with guests and instructors may seem trivial, but is the foundation of Stronger Austin’s commitment to community.
It’s vital for Stronger Austin to fully engage with the community, as with community input, Stronger Austin is able to tailor activities and programming according to specific community needs. Listening then acting on community requests helps Stronger Austin develop appropriate programming. This in turn leads to participants having a sense of ownership in the process and stronger commitment to exercise classes. Many class attendees are regulars and create strong ties with one another, further improving class participation. Being a part of the solution to a healthier future for the Austin community has been a great experience.