Hundreds of kids, boys and girls, are placed in detention facilities across the nation every year.

It’s a rising problem and may partially stem from bullying going on in schools, broken homes, and/or a lack of discipline in their lives.

I’ve always had an urge to work with children and teens. Growing up I moved around a lot because my dad was in the Air Force. Moving all the time left me feeling like I didn’t belong. When I look back at my teenage years, I can now see that maybe that is one of the reasons that I got into so much trouble. I just wanted to fit in somewhere. I would sneak out at night, steal my mom’s car, drink with my friends and even got expelled at one point.

My parents decided it was time to find me some help and sent me into counseling at a camp in Hawaii. When I came back I found a love for working out and used this as a way to channel my anger. That is when I started training hard and competing.

I knew this was something I could help other teens with, especially if they had a similar past as mine. In 1997 I arrived to Fort Hood and started a program called Fitness Quest with four coworkers. This was an after-school program where we would go to youth centers and teach them exercises. The hope was to show them the importance of fitness in their lives. During this time I knew that this was it for me. I loved helping them and watching them grow.

I use the same structure from Fitness Quest when I visit local juvenile detention centers. I answer real questions and share my personal stories of heartaches, struggles, anger and consequences. We do sprinting drills along with physical tests like max pushups in four minutes, max pull-ups in two minutes, and max warrior sit-ups for three minutes. We take down their scores for each challenge and put them on scorecards. My plan is to do this once a month and track their growth, strength and endurance in these activities.

My physical stature helps with getting the “wow factor” when I walk in the room. The teens respond well to me and they often ask questions about how much I eat, how many times I work out and other physical fitness type questions.

If that’s what it takes to get one of them to change their paths and get into fitness and self worth then I’ve done my job correctly.

Mike Sheppard is the owner of Heritage Park Fitness in Harker Heights.

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