How Coach Candy Wakwe is Serving the Under Resourced in Atlanta
When Coach Candy Wakwe heard about Noble Clay Fitness in Atlanta, GA, she knew it was where she wanted to coach.
- “As an African American coach, the way they’re intentionally trying to help (minorities) and offer a professional level of coaching, touched me to my core,” said Wakwe, who grew up in South Carolina in a single-parent home.
- “They were reaching the community that spoke to me,” she added.
Noble Clay’s background: Noble Clay Fitness is a non-profit organization and a registered charity that offers subsidized memberships for those who wouldn’t normally be able to afford coaching. They’re located in an area of Atlanta that’s on the divide between a neighborhood where the average annual income is around $20,000, and a neighborhood where people are making more than $100,000 a year.
Their membership reflects these polarized demographics, Wakwe explained. Fifty percent of their membership base pays the full price of $297 a month, while the other half pays based on their income level.
Wakwe’s story: Wakwe grew up witnessing a lot of Type 2 diabetes. Her mother, grandparents and some of her aunts and uncles were all diabetics, she explained. This led to her desire to get into healthcare.
In college, she double majored in psychology and economics. Then Wakwe started medical school and gained experience as a clinical researcher in oncology and cardiology at a hospital in Atlanta.
- “I kept seeing the same thing. Chronic illness, and a lot of outcomes weren’t good for the minority populations. I thought I could serve this way through research, and I was good at it, but it wasn’t bringing me joy,” she said.
- “At the same time, I had a lot of joy in the gym, and talking to people about nutrition, so I thought that (coaching) might be a better route for me,” she explained of how she abandoned the medical route for a more preventative way of helping people reclaim their health and fitness.
After completing a personal training certificate, the CrossFit Level 1 and the Precision Nutrition Level 1, she worked both as a personal trainer and at a CrossFit gym for a while.
- “I noticed that I didn’t see many people who looked like me, which was fine, but at the same time I realized personal training is a way I can make a living as a coach, but it won’t let me access the community I really want to help,” she said.
Today at Noble Clay, fifty percent of the clients Wawke works with earn less than $40,000 a year, and some much lower than this. In fact, Noble Clay owner Ben Davis explained that some of their members earn as little as $6,000 a year.
Tara Schloss is a client at Noble Clay, who pays one percent of her net income to train there.
Though Schloss came from an athletic background, where she played sports and ran track, “I wasn’t educated on nutrition, nor did I grow up in a healthy environment physically or mentally,” Schloss said.
- “Through a series of painful events, I became a single mother of four amazing kids and found myself trying to overcompensate. I work a full-time job and was rarely provided with spaces to breathe and take care of my mental and physical health,” she said, adding that she ended up with stomach ulcers.
Having the opportunity to receive coaching has made all the difference in her life.
- “Noble Clay has met me right where I was at. They welcomed me and even my children as part of the family. The experience has been life-giving,” she said.
It has allowed Schloss to improve her nutrition and her knowledge of nutrition, lose weight and she has “discovered new ways to stay active even while including my kids,” she said.
- Schloss added: “One of the biggest highlights is walking into Noble Clay on a stressful day and focusing on my health, leaving my cares of the day aside…and leaving renewed and strengthened to handle life with deeper confidence and sense of accomplishment.”
Wakwe “gets choked up,” she said when she hears stories like Schloss’. And it reminds her that she’s finally living her dream.
- “Those (stories) are the things that keep me going. It’s amazing to be part of this, and I hope we can open hundreds of Noble Clays around the nation,” she said.