Freedom through fitness: This CNN hero’s formula prevents former criminals from returning to prison

Read Time:5 Minute, 52 Second


“I am alone in a cell and I just had a self-talk. I thought,’Damn, I’m here again.’ …I just decided this is the last time.” He said. “Those who are at home, take care of their families, and make a living-these are the people I want to be.”

In the next 12 years, he has maintained his goals. However, when he was finally released, his chances of success were not great.

A 2018 study by the University of Michigan showed that more than a quarter of people who had been imprisoned could not find a job, and of those who found a job, 80% had an income of less than 15,000 in the first year after being released from prison. Dollar. In the end, nearly half of federal prisoners committed crimes again after being released.

For Ramsey, obstacles are nothing new. His father died before he was born, and his mother has been struggling to make ends meet. After her death when he was 15 years old, he walked the wrong crowd. By 2017, when he was released, he had spent most of his life in prison.

In New York City, Hector Guadalupe aims to help people like Ramsey succeed. His non-profit organization, A Second U Foundation, helps previously imprisoned men and women obtain personal trainer certification and build careers in the fitness industry.

This is the road that 42-year-old Guadalupe has walked by himself. By the time he was a teenager, he had lost his parents and was eventually jailed for 10 years for drug trafficking. There, he became obsessed with fitness and was certified as a personal trainer. After returning home, he decided to work in an elite gym in Manhattan.

Guadalupe said: “There are six days of the week, I actually fill out the application form in every company fitness club…” “No one called me back… I know why: because of mine In the past…but I did not give up.”

CNN hero Hector Guadalupe

Nine months later, he found an opportunity to establish himself in the fitness industry in New York without a day off for four consecutive years. Now, he spends most of the week helping others do the same.

Ramsey heard about Guadalupe’s plan in his halfway house, and he knew it was a perfect choice.

“Fitness-it allows me to spend my time in prison,” Ramsey said. “I know how to exercise, but I don’t understand the science behind everything.”

This is where Guadalupe comes in. He and his team of volunteers provide 10-15 students with an eight-week free plan every quarter. The group meets six days a week to prepare for the national certification exam.

“The plan is intense,” Ramsey said. “It’s like learning to be a doctor.”

“They are learning anatomy, bone structure, kinesiology,” Guadalupe said. “They are also taught… how to be effective coaches.”

In addition to study materials and exam fees, the program now provides each student with a free tablet with a keyboard, transportation, new clothes, software courses, and a $1,300 allowance. The coach also guides the students and helps more than just classwork.

“This is our purpose here, to support each other during this journey,” Guadalupe said. “We are actually a family.”

After students pass the exam, Guadalupe will help them find a job. Since 2016, more than 200 people have graduated from the program, and only two have committed crimes again—the recidivism rate is less than 1%. Guadalupe believes that the reason behind the success of his graduates is simple.

“Their prices start at $35 per hour and the maximum is $80 per hour. Comprehensive company benefits,” he said. “When you provide people with livable wages, they can support their families… and become productive members of society.”

After Ramsey graduated in 2017, he found a job in one of the city’s top stadiums. He now owns his own fitness company and participates in the program with his girlfriend Bianca Ordonez, who is also a coach. The two met through Guadalupe, who will become the godfather of their baby girl in June.

“I owe Hector a lot… He just gave me the basis for success,” Ramsey said. “(His) whole approach to us is to maximize our potential-you are not the person you were convicted of. That is not you.”

Seeing people like Ramsey succeed, Guadalupe will be full of motivation.

“This is glory… You can only imagine how many children will be fed and taken care of now, don’t worry,” he said. “That’s why the second chance is important.”

CNN’s Kathleen Toner talked to Guadalupe about his work. The following is an edited version of their conversation.

CNN: You work hard to build your career. Why did you decide to start a non-profit organization?

Hector Guadalupe: I will only see men who spend time with me on the train. They have no jobs and nothing. I remember how it felt. So just out of love, I would say, “Hey, work out with me.” This became I took them to buy their first exercise equipment, buy their books, and help them study for the exam. One person after another finally got the certification, and I thought, “Wow, we have to put a program together.”

CNN: How is your plan affected by the pandemic?

Guadalupe: During Covid, so many men and women transitioned from prison, which made us finally increase our support. This is why we started to provide allowances to people and tablets. Technology is important, not only because our courses are now online five days a week, but also because students shadow trainers on Zoom so they can learn how to instruct people in a virtual way.

There will always be this face-to-face aspect in the business, but we have also seen changes in the model, so it becomes more important for these men and women to know how to use technology. We also started to provide weekly mindfulness courses. When you are released, you will go home with great pressure-this is a therapy that strengthens your soul.

CNN: What do you want the public to know about your work?

Guadalupe: When people are released from prison, society thinks it is easy to go to school or find a job, but not so easy. Once you have a record, there is nothing for them to win. This is why our country has a high recidivism rate. You can’t give someone a mop and say, “This is your future. Take the minimum wage and deal with it.” We need communities to unite, create opportunities, and guide people on the path to true financial security. This is why we became A Second U. We want to give you a second chance in life.

Want to participate?Check The website of the second U Foundation See how to help.
Donate to the A Second U Foundation through GoFundMe, click here

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