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UliftU

UliftU

UliftU Logo

Program Website
Year:
2019
State:
Pennsylvania
Winner Status:
Finalist
Program Type:
Training and Skill Building
Target Population:
Individuals involved with the Justice System
Setting:
Business/Work Site

Nature of the Problem

Some of our countries best entrepreneurs are in prison and our communities are dying from preventable disease. What if there was a solution that addressed both of these areas simultaneously? That is what we’re doing with UliftU. UliftU is a 501c3 that prepares returning citizens for careers in the health and fitness industry. Our goal is to reduce access issues around quality fitness options in parts of Philadelphia that otherwise wouldn’t have the option. It isn’t enough to just provide classes, but rather by empowering returning citizens often from the same neighborhoods, to lead that effort, we’re creating jobs and also providing community based health care through fitness. That’s the key to our model. UliftU arose from a frustration around opportunities available to returning citizens and the fact that preventable, chronic diseases are ravaging Philadelphia. This program prepares coaches using a 9-month job training program, during which members earn $10/hour as they learn the professional skill development to be certified. All the benefits of the program are earned, nothing is given. We’re working to demonstrate that returning citizens are an incredibly under utilized portion of our workforce and that our communities shouldn’t be dying because of access to fitness.

Program Description

UliftU is a non-profit organization that works with State and Federal re-entry programs in Pennsylvania, empowering citizens returning from prison to become leaders in Greater Philadelphia, battling chronic disease with a career in health and wellness. UliftU members begin their training by taking educational and literacy assessments to best direct study methods over the course of the coming months. Their career preparation requires up to 10 hours per week, allowing members to work on professional development while learning anatomy and physiology, nutrition, coaching methodology and more. Members also spend time shadowing experienced coaches and participating in classes alongside our larger gym community. UliftU also runs classes for citizens currently incarcerated in the State prison system to help serve as a bridge upon release. Over the course of the program, members earn a stipend of $10 per hour to help support their training investment. Certification exam costs are covered so that our members can get a jump start. Members start out earning at least $20/hour to coach community classes that are open and available in parts of the city that have some of the highest incidence of chronic disease along with residents living below the poverty line.

Disruption

Ex-offenders are being thrown away upon release and told they can’t work meaningful jobs that give the opportunity do something different than before. Additionally, we have the health data to know that in Center City Philadelphia, you are likely to live over 20 years longer than if you live less than three miles north in North Philadelphia. These issues share a common thread. Health and fitness. For ex-offenders returning, this industry offers unique upwardly mobile employment opportunities. UliftU is connecting that opportunity with addressing preventable chronic diseases that are killing our fellow Philadelphians at unacceptable levels. For less than the average cost of incarcerating someone for one year in Pennsylvania, we can put them through our job training program and begin to save lives. Our program model can address both issues here and do so in a way that can make a meaningful difference in our community.

Leadership

Leadership is the very cornerstone of what UliftU is doing through our program. Learning to be a professional coach is not to be someone who shows off their muscles and barks orders at their clients. A coach is a leader, someone qualified and confident who can illuminate the way to a new version of yourself – who you want to become, even if you don’t know the path of self discovery. We hone those skills over the 9-months that individuals are with us, both through shadowing experienced coaches and classroom exercises. We often say that clients won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Those are learned skills, and incredibly powerful ones in making a coach. A coach is a guide, not a guru, the methods our members learn are not driven by fads, but rather decades of training knowledge.

Scalability

We have spent the past two years building our curriculum to make it effective. Our program growth is limited by funding and the staff time required by myself and another full-time Subversus Fitness coach (the gym that houses this program and donates classroom space). Our largest program expense are the stipends that our members earn in the program, something that we feel is important given the fact that our members don’t have gainful employment when starting the program. More funding allows for more time to be dedicated to teaching the sessions and added stipends. Just over $4,000 supports a member through our program. Our funding model supports an annual budget of just under $50,000. Funding has largely been from individuals as well as a Grant from the Independence Blue Cross Foundation. With greater funding, more returning citizens get an opportunity, more community classes get coached and more lives are changed.

Results/Outcomes

Starting in January of 2018, we began piloting the full scope of our program. That included members referred directly from Federal and state re-entry programs as well as running free community classes. We now have a second class ready to start the program while our first class is beginning their certification process. Additionally, graduates are running class three evenings per week in North Philadelphia. All of the pieces for partnership on both the delivery side (classes at Recreation Centers in North Philadelphia, intake side (Federal and State re-entry organizations) are now in place. Additionally, we have a relationship with the CrossFit Foundation to cover certification. We are beginning to place members in outside fitness employment as well. Lastly, UliftU will begin running fitness classes as well in West Philadelphia and in the state correctional system so that inmates can learn about the potential opportunity work in fitness once released.