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Fit Factor warms students up for volunteering

  • Dancers at Maxt Out, a contest that Fit Factor interns volunteer at. Photo courtesy of Joanna Vargas.

  • The annual Pumpkin Run, which Fit Factor interns volunteer at. Photo courtesy of City of Alhambra Facebook.

  • Joanna Vargas, owner of Fit Factor. Photo courtesy of Joanna Vargas.


Alhambra , CA United States

For dancer, fitness instructor and Alhambra business owner Joanna Vargas, the slogan “Live Fully” doesn’t just apply to her clients at the Fit Factor Studio. It also describes her efforts to recruit volunteers to serve the community.

Chalkboards adorn the walls of her studio on Main and First Streets, offering encouraging words meant to inspire participants to work hard for rewarding results. For Vargas, the drive to invigorate others to stay active stretches further than physical strength. She has long used her businesses to recruit volunteers for service opportunities in Alhambra. Vargas is part of a popular trend in the city and surrounding areas: businesses and other organizations offering service opportunities for the community.

Vargas, 40, began her career by teaching dance in 1995. In 2004, she founded Jayvee Dance Studio in Alhambra. In 2011, her passion for exercise and activity inspired her to establish the Fit Factor Studio, a space for personal training, motivated movement and classes designed to create what she calls “Fit Fanatics.”

Vargas began recruiting volunteers at Jayvee Dance Center. Students in high school service clubs need to fulfill a minimum number of service hours, sometimes in activities that are not fun, she said. Her solution: help organize dance competitions and 5K runs.

“That’s why every year we have so many inquiries,” she said. “The [volunteers] enjoy it, want to come back and in lieu of what I expect from them, I want to give them a fun time so they learn something. I want them to learn how to interact with other people.”

At the Fit Factor Studio, her volunteers are responsible for managing registration and setting up stations for the Pumpkin Run marathon, the Maxt Out international dance competition, Christmas tree lightings and the annual Halloween Main Street Trick or Treat fest.

Vargas expects her volunteers to exercise communication skills and treat all clients with respect, while still having fun doing service. To effectively recruit volunteers for these events, Vargas uses interns, such as 17-year-old Andy Ngo, to aid in communicating with local high schools and publicize upcoming events.

“I’ve learned that volunteering allows citizens to know what’s going on around their own hometown,” said Ngo, who started interning with Vargas when he was a student at Alhambra High School.

Volunteering offers benefits to the businesses too. They “get more hands-on help [and] get to see which people they may want to hire,” Ngo said.

In addition to the Fit Factor Studio offering volunteer work, organizations including the Alhambra Police Department have continued to allow volunteering for the annual summer Alhambra Night Out. Volunteers are in charge of preparing the free meals provided and helping with vendor booth setup and takedown at the end of the event. Medical centers in Alhambra and Monterey Park have begun opening their doors to volunteers to help with filing papers and getting patients situated.

Christine Huynh, 16, began interning at the Fit Factor Studio in her sophomore year of high school. She believes that more businesses “can get a lot of publicity” from offering volunteer opportunities.

Alhambra’s sense of togetherness is apparent through community events. Volunteers and participants alike are enabled to become one for a common cause.

Vargas explains that more volunteer opportunities are needed in Alhambra “because it’s in the community,”

“If there were more services around here, I think it’d be really cool,” she said. “Volunteers help give me time back. There’s no way we could run events without volunteers. I’m a starter. I’m a creator. I’m an inventor. It’s just [having] that heart.”

Vargas continues to encourage bodybuilders and volunteers alike, all from the Fit Factor Studio. From chalkboards with uplifting quotes to service orientations that exude positivity, from coaching through calories to life lessons and the power of rewards, her business’ slogan reminds Alhambrans to “Live Fully.”

Elias Almarez-Herrera is an Alhambra Source summer intern and a rising senior at Alhambra High School.

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