A workout program started in prison has turned into a successful business training more than 200 formerly incarcerated people as physical trainers.
CNN Hero Hector Guadalupe
“They start at $35 an hour, top out at $80 an hour. Full corporate benefits,” said Hector Guadalupe, founder of A Second U Foundation. “When you provide people with livable wages, they’re able to feed their families …. and be productive members of society.”
Guadalupe spent 10 years in prison for drug trafficking. While there he became obsessed with fitness.
Guadalupe changed his life, and achieved certification as a personal trainer, a CNN story reported in May.
A University of Michigan study in 2018 stated that more than one in four formerly incarcerated individuals have difficulty securing meaningful work. It reported around 80% of those who find employment earn less than $15,000 their first year in society. The statistics further show at least half of formerly incarcerated in federal facilities reoffend.
When he was released, Guadalupe said, “Six days out of the week, I’m literally at every corporate club… filling out applications. Nobody was calling me back… and I knew why: because of my past … But I didn’t give up.”
The result: A Second U Foundation, a New York organization that helps formerly incarcerated men and women become certified as personal trainers. That enables them to build careers in the fitness industry.
One of Guadalupe’s students was Joel Ramsey. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was 15. Ramsey hooked up with the wrong crowd, which led him to a federal facility.
“I was in a cell by myself and I just had a self-talk. And I’m like, ‘Damn, I’m here again.’… I just made a decision that this was the last time,” said Ramsey.
“Fitness — it got me through my time in prison” Ramsey said, “I knew how to work out, but I didn’t know the science behind everything.”
After being released, he joined the Second U Foundation training.
“The program was intense,” Ramsey said. “It was like studying to be a doctor.”
The program is free of cost. It is run by a team of volunteers and lasts eight weeks. The average class size is from 10-15 students, who are provided a $1,300 stipend, new clothing and transportation. They’re also given software classes and a free computer tablet with a keyboard.
The program assists participants in passing the national fitness certification. It includes teaching kinesiology, bone structure, and anatomy.
Of the more than 200 graduates since 2016, less than 1% have reoffended.