This GL girl is the *youngest* Zumba instructor in Chicago
Julia Kerpel is the youngest Zumba instructor in Chicago. Below, she tells GL her story: How Zumba became such a big part of her life, and how it helped her and her community stay happy and healthy during the quarantine.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was volunteer-teaching Zumba, a Latin inspired cardio dance workout. My co-instructor (aka my mom) and I were teaching at my high school: Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois. We taught through Working Together, a nonprofit that assists low-income kids and families in our area. When Illinois schools shut down in March, I wanted to keep teaching Zumba to help everyone stay active and healthy. The question was how? The answer was technology!
With a laptop and Wifi, I turned our basement into a *rockin'* fitness studio. I quickly learned how to live stream our classes though Zoom and Twitch, everyone loved it. Just like the in-person classes, the online ones were free of charge. However, some of the participants were so grateful that they insisted on paying once the classes transitioned to being online. My mom and I decided to donate the money to our local Moraine Township Food Pantry and to Feeding America. To date, over $1,500 has been donated!
At fifteen years old, I am the youngest licensed Zumba instructor in Chicagoland. In addition to adult classes, I also teach online Zumba Kids classes with a section of the class being dedicated to a craft project. In the craft portion, I teach a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) inspired project using easy to find materials at home to make projects, such as a paper flower or water bottle launcher.
I am a third-generation Zumba instructor; both my mom and grandmother teach the Latin-inspired, cardio dance workout which combines international music and easy to follow dances. My mom first started taking Zumba classes when I was 4 years old. She loved it so much that she decided to get certified, and eventually began bringing me to the classes she taught. Ever since then, my love for Zumba has never gone away.
Zumba has such a *fun* and *poppin'* atmosphere that's so contagious. The fact that anyone can do Zumba regardless of dance experience or background is really what separates it from other workouts and dance classes. After years of doing Zumba- as well as ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance I finally got certified as an official Zumba instructor! Right now, I still teach with my mom but when I turn 18 I plan to start teaching on my own and continue it in college too.
There are some misconceptions about Zumba. Kids my age think it's only for their moms and grandmas, which is completely untrue! While the older generation thinks they need years of dance experience to be able to do it- also not true, Zumba is truly for everyone!
Before COVID, Zumba classes were *all* in person. There was no virtual component. Using technology to teach Zumba online during the pandemic has helped the participants stay happy and healthy. Almost every day, they send emails and texts saying how grateful they are for our online Zumba classes- that is has saved their sanity as well as their health.
As the weather gets colder, I will keep offering virtual classes even when in-person instruction resumes. I look forward to being back in the same room with everyone, dancing to the music, working out and just having fun. It's so nice that I can share my love for Zumba with everyone in my classes whether it be in person or online, while also giving back to the community.