By Thara Babineau

Project Forward, the program that provides students with learning differences the opportunity to gain and maintain vocational skills, keys to independent living, and the path to social success at Cape Cod Community College (4Cs), added an important area of focus onto their curriculum this past September: physical fitness.

On Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the Life Fitness Center, Project Forward holds a fitness class geared toward its members called Drop-In with Lou. The class is comprised of inclusive games, sports, and fitness training and is led by Project Forward fitness instructor, Louis Preziosi.

“The focus is to keep students who are in Project Forward active and vibrant, so they continue developing their physical aptitudes as they get older,” said Preziosi.

Preziosi was recruited to instruct the class by Project Forward Director Nicole Mark, once the decision to implement physical fitness training into the Project Forward course offerings was made.

“I was retired, I was a Physical Education teacher years ago,” said Preziosi. “Nicole Mark reached out to me about wanting to start this program. It’s been on a trial basis and I’m hoping it’s going to continue.”

Mark shares Preziosi’s hope for the future of the course and that people will attend the program as the semester continues.

“My goal for developing this drop-in fitness program was to really help students understand the value of fitness for health and offer an inclusive opportunity for both mainstream classes and Project Forward,” said Mark. “I believe that both groups can learn so much from one another.”

Drop-In with Lou is a non-credit course. Participants do not have to register before they attend the class, and there is no commitment required. Although the class was designed with Project Forward students in mind, it is open to all, and students with a valid 4Cs student ID are encouraged to come any time during the class to participate.

“Some of the students who are at the college and working here full time, we have asked them to come over and include themselves in some games and activities,” Preziosi. “Some of them drop in and it’s really nice to see them interact with the students who are in Project Forward.”

Students who opt to drop in with Lou can expect both variety and flexibility with each class. Which area of physical fitness or activity the class chooses to focus on changes or adjusts due to factors such as students’ preference and abilities. Oftentimes, participants will partake in more than one activity during a single class, and the class moves to different areas of the Life Fitness Center, depending on which activity is chosen.

“We do aerobics, some light weights, wally-ball (a variation of volleyball), basketball, floor hockey, soccer—you know, we run the gamut,” said Preziosi. “It also depends on the abilities of each student, we work around their aptitude.”

Preziosi said the class garners regular attendance from about seven students, but he and the rest of the Project Forward staff hope the number of participants will rise.

“We are trying to expand,” said Preziosi. “We can take up to 20 students [per class session].”

While the goal is to grow and reach more students, Project Forward staff is celebrating the success in helping at least seven students form the healthy habit of regular exercise and they remain hopeful that the word will spread, and participation will increase.

“Even if they come and work out for a half hour, it’s a great way to keep students motivated,” said Preziosi. “It really has been working out well. We just need more students to join in.”