Four years ago Alex Aleman, armed with only a few hula hoops, some orange cones and worn out kick balls, aimed to help poor kids in his community live an active, healthy lifestyle.
The 18-year-old says there aren’t many affordable exercise programs for kids in his Twin Lakes neighborhood in northwest Denver. So he started his own program called Healthy Kids In Action. It’s a free exercise program he runs every summer for kids at the Pearl Mack Community Center who might otherwise not be able to pay for similar programs at gyms or rec centers. Aleman leads them in fun stuff like dodgeball, but also educational games that helps kids develop social and leadership skills.
Interview highlights below. Click on the audio link for the full conversation.
Interview Highlights With Alex Aleman
On what motivated him to start this program:
“I know what it’s like to want to be in club sports and not be able to afford that. And there was a time when there were gangs in the community, and it was pretty much unsafe to be outside. So that maybe had an impact on the community and them wanting to go out and exercise.
It’s very sad because at the Pearl Mac Community Center, there’s a lot of sports that are offered there. They do provide grants and scholarships, but the application is in English and it’s a very tough process.”
On why it’s all so important to him:
“My passion for exercise started when I was in 6th Grade. I liked this girl and we dated for a short amount of time. And I after she broke up with me, I was really heart-broken. And I thought that through exercise, I would look more charming, and that I would have six-pack abs.
But here’s the sad part: I started exercising too much and I started losing a lot of weight and I became anorexic. So, another reason I created Healthy Kids in Action was to teach kids to exercise properly, so that way they wouldn’t have to worry about their weight or how they look because they’re already being healthy.”
On whether he sees cultural barriers for Latino kids trying to eat healthy and stay active:
“Yes, I do. Man, the food in our culture is very delicious but that doesn’t mean (to stay healthy) we can stop eating it altogether. That would be almost impossible. But just adding variations to the meals, or just eating tamales by themselves, adding vegetables. That itself could make the food a bit healthier.”
On starting his freshman year at DU, taking part in a program showing high schoolers how they can be leaders in their community, and what he hopes to achieve:
“I just hope to empower the high school students and to show them that, no matter how young you are or what your economic status is, you can create a change in your community, and there are resources and support for you.”
On what it means to you when a kid or a parent tells you how grateful they are:
“It’s very touching and it just motivates me to continue. It just touches my heart because doing good and helping others when you can is something good. God teaches us to give and to love everyone.”