Meet the Science Teacher Behind the Flourishing Non-Profit Affiliate in Idaho High School
Jason George felt helpless. He had watched his wife battle and conquer breast cancer only to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) shortly after that, and there was little he could do to help.
That’s when he decided to start CrossFit, as it seemed like it would be “a healthy outlet,” said George, a biology teacher at Vision Charter School in Caldwell, ID.
He was right. Not only did his health and fitness improve, but when he was at CrossFit, “it was so hard that I couldn’t think about the other issues going on in my life,” he said.
Before he knew it, CrossFit became a family affair, as his wife and two daughters started joining him at 5:30 AM CrossFit classes.
- “It was a positive thing for my wife to help control her MS, and for kids, it’s rare to get them up that early, but they wanted to go,” he said.
Seeing what a difference CrossFit was making to his entire family, George became a Level 1 coach (and is now a Level 3 coach) and approached the administration at his school in 2017 about starting a CrossFit gym on site to offer CrossFit classes to high school students.
- “They didn’t know what CrossFit was, but they were like, ‘sure,’” said George, who is also the men’s basketball coach at the school.
Where he is today: Today, George runs Vision CrossFit, a non-profit affiliate located at Vision Charter School—an affiliate that relies 100 percent on donations—which offers CrossFit classes in lieu of traditional physical education to students.
Specifically, George teaches four CrossFit classes a day that serve 80 students, “which is about one third of our entire High School,” he said.
The program is so popular that there’s a waiting list every year. Further, there’s only one traditional physical education class left at Vision Charter School.
Despite its popularity and success today, it has been a long road to establish what the program has become, George explained.
- “When we started (in 2017) we didn’t have an actual space. We were outside much of the time and had pull-up bars welded to shipping containers, and I made a lot of the equipment,” he said.
Eventually, George was able to negotiate to use part of the existing gym, but he still had to keep all the CrossFit equipment in his science lab and haul it back and forth.
Three years ago, though, the school built a new gym and George convinced the school’s administration to give his CrossFit program part of the space. At the same time, he was able to secure a few grants to purchase things like a Rogue rig and an adequate number of barbells.
One big thing: The CrossFit program at Vision Charter School has been especially successful in introducing teenagers who weren’t into sports to fitness.
- In fact, George estimates that 50 percent of the kids enrolled in his CrossFit classes don’t come from an athletic background, while the other 50 percent tend to be athletes already playing sports, which has also been “a great way to bridge the gap between those two groups,” he said.
The big picture: Seven years in, Vision CrossFit affects dozens of students’ lives for the better each year, something parents constantly reiterate to George through both verbal feedback and monetary donations, and something George constantly witnesses firsthand.
- “They start to change their eating habits on their own. They’re a little more motivated to come to school…They say, ‘If I didn’t have this class, I wouldn’t have come to school today,’” George said.
- “I get excited when the kid who has no kinesthetics awareness, who doesn’t know what his back looks like when he deadlifts, finally fixes it. It’s pretty cool,” he added.
And George gets excited when he realizes that what he’s teaching his students about health and fitness is sticking with them as they graduate high school and become adults. He uses Beyond the Whiteboard in his classes, “so I still see kids that I had in my class five years ago posting workouts,” he said.
“It’s the little things like that that keep you going.”