Brett LaFemina is dedicated to the health and wellness of the Gaston College community
Brett LaFemina, Program Chair and Instructor for the Health and Fitness Science and Health and Physical Education programs at Gaston College, is doing what he can remotely to keep the Gaston College faculty and staff healthy and well. He leads the College’s involvement in the Healthy Gaston Challenge, an initiative of the Gaston Together Healthcare Commission, and he is encouraging his co-workers to participate in its monthly health and wellness challenges.
“During this time of working remotely and staying at home as much as possible,” LaFemina said, “many of us have not been able to engage in our usual physical activities. We may even have begun to see the scale going up due to this increased sedentariness and stress. Each month we will have a new challenge focus and accompanying document to track progress,” LaFemina said. He urges Gaston College employees to participate in the challenges, chart their progress, and submit their checklists to him so he can record the results and recognize the top participants.
Thanks to LaFemina’s leadership as the Chair of the Health and Fitness Science program, Gaston College’s involvement with the Healthy Gaston Challenge started long before the current pandemic measures were put into place. “Brett is very passionate about the Health and Fitness science program,” said Dr. Allison Abernathy, Dean of Health and Human Services. “He is the College representative for Gaston Together and has worked to help GC achieve Gold Level status of a healthy workplace.” The College received the Healthy Gaston Gold Level of Recognition in 2019, which required implementing and tracking health and wellness initiatives within organizations for at least one year and measuring their impact on the health and productivity of employees.
LaFemina earned his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Physiology in 2008 and his Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2012. He started working as a part-time instructor at Gaston College in 2016. “I had planned to go for my Ph.D. for a while since I loved academia,” he said, “but found that I gravitated towards teaching more than research, so I was happy to see that this position existed.” He has been with Gaston College full-time since 2017. In addition to his degrees, he holds a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and the Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist certification through the American College of Sports Medicine.
Gaston College employees are encouraged by the College’s Health and Wellness Committee to participate in fitness programs such as the Every Step Counts Challenge. Department teams compete over a six-week period to amass the highest number of steps walked by team members. Weekly results are submitted to LaFemina, who records the team tallies. In February 2020, the three-member Plant Operations team won the trophy with 1,631,566 steps, and team member Beth Deaton was the overall winner with close to 600,000 steps.
Employees and students also have access to the Dallas Campus Fitness Center, which usually is open 25 hours a week during the school year. The Fitness Center has all the essential equipment commonly found in a commercial fitness center, including power rack, cable column, resistance circuit, and cardiovascular machines. The Center is currently closed and will reopen in the fall semester, should pandemic guidelines allow.
During the spring semester, employees have access to the Personal Training Clinic, run by Dr. Leonard Martineau, faculty member of the Health and Fitness Science department. Participants of the clinic are matched with a Health and Fitness Science student to be trained for 12 weeks.
Students in the Gaston College Health and Fitness Science program learn kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise programming, health coaching, and group exercise instruction. During the last semester of the program, students assess and train a client for 12 weeks to help them achieve their fitness goals. The Health and Fitness Science program is a two-year AAS degree program that prepares students for the ACE Certified Personal Trainer examination. Students in the program also have the option to transfer all or most of their credits to several North Carolina universities after graduation, enabling them to achieve their Bachelor of Science within a few more years.
LaFemina is also committed to promoting healthy lifestyles throughout the community. Gaston College presents an annual Health Fair, which was created by former faculty member Judy Blankenship. The goal of the Health Fair is to make the community aware of the many businesses and agencies available to help them achieve optimal health and wellness. LaFemina helps to coordinate the event.
“Dozens of local businesses and governmental agencies participate in the annual Health Fair, including several Gaston College programs that have clinics available to the community, such as Therapeutic Massage and Cosmetology/Esthetics,” he said. “These vendors provide the attendees with valuable information about their health and wellness resources, with several providing demonstrations of their services and conducting on-site assessments and testing. We have also begun to have raffles at the end of the Health Fair with gifts graciously provided by several of the vendors.” Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Health Fair could not take place in 2020, but it is scheduled to resume in April 2021.
Although normal routines have been disrupted, LaFemina believes that fitness and health should still be priorities. “The Healthy Gaston initiative is providing monthly health challenges during this time to participate in remotely,” he said. “These include a Fruit and Vegetable Challenge in June, a Steps Challenge in July, and a Water Challenge in August, to start off with. The Gaston College Health and Wellness Committee will be encouraging participation in these challenges.”
For information about upcoming classes in Health and Fitness Science and Health and Physical Education programs contact Brett LeFemina at LeFemina.Brett@gaston.edu or 704.922.2280.