Upower pumps up youth with trauma-informed fitness

Madison Park resident Martha Moseley founded nonprofit in 2014

Upower pumps up youth with trauma-informed fitness

Upower pumps up youth with trauma-informed fitness

Martha Moseley has always been focused on fitness.

The former angel investor and Madison Park resident has four children, and spent six years coaching basketball for her two daughters.

She was Crossfit certified in 2012, and the calls started coming in, she said, from her friends and friends of her children, wanting her to coach them. But it wasn't something she was passionate about.

“I really thought to myself, 'Why am I doing this for the kids who can afford it?'” she said.

Moseley discovered many schools in King County work with a limited budget, which means putting an emphasis on test scores rather than investing in physical education.

“As I got into it, I found out there was so much need during the school day,” she said.

Upower has grown a lot since Moseley founded the nonprofit fitness and wellness program more than four years ago, but there's always demand for more.

It started with her “We Power, You Power” program, where she first sought community backing from people she knew, and then finding the right partners willing to buy in, she said.

She found one in Kaaren Andrews, principal for Seattle Public Schools' Interagency Academy, a network of small alternative high schools geared toward at-risk youth. Upower works with several of the high schools, including one in Queen Anne, and had its first class in February 2014 at the IA in Columbia City. High schools were a good place to start, Moseley said, because early on the nonprofit couldn't provide transportation.

Upower also provides fitness and wellness programs for various community centers and Boys and Girls Clubs.

“We have some paid staff, and then we have a lot of volunteers in the community,” Moseley said.

Partner nonprofit Up2Us Sports train coaches in trauma-informed fitness, providing Upower with up to six coaches through Americorps, Moseley said.

That trauma-informed fitness training has been very helpful in guiding how Upower coaches students inside the King County Juvenile Detention Center, which has a gym but no formal instruction, Moseley said. The nonprofit provides 23 classes there each week.

 Upower gets youth in detention to engage in positive activities while also offering patient mentors that make them feel cared about.

“A lot of the kids, they now have someone who knows their name and remembers them,” Moseley said. “Our goal is just to get kids moving, and to have fun while they're doing it.”

Youth who engage in regular fitness programs for six weeks to three months can increase their physical aptitude by 36 percent, she said.

“In the detention center they say kids sleep better, there are fewer fights,” Moseley said.

Because the emotional well being of the at-risk youth the nonprofit serves is important, Moseley said, Upower classes always start with a Restorative Circle, where students are asked to provide their name, list how they're feeling on a scale of 0-5, and answer a daily question.

“For us, it's a great way to gauge the temperature,” she said.

The workouts vary depending on the group of students, and many classes involve games that appeal to teens and get them to be active without thinking about it as exercise. Dodgeball is a popular game, and the balls are cushioned rather than hard rubber, so they don't hurt when youth are hit. They also don't get thrown out, Moseley said – they can do burpees to get back in the game.

Upower also has tennis clinics, with help from nonprofit Top Spin Serves, which was founded by fellow Madison Park resident Chris McReynolds.

For the first two years of Upower's operation, Moseley said, the Seattle Academy made its gym space available to the nonprofit for its annual Dodge for a Cause dodgeball fundraiser. This year was Upower's second partnering with Seattle University for use of its gym for the fundraiser, which reached its $75,000 goal on Oct. 16.

Upower receives support from private foundations, individual donors and a number of grants. King County's voter-approved Best Starts for Kids program provided the nonprofit with two grants this last funding cycle. One was for $150,000 over 1 ½ years to provide trauma-informed fitness, community gardening and safe spaces for youth in the central and south portions of the county, and the other was $2,000 for trauma-informed restorative practices collaboration. Upower also received a $61,000 fitness grant through King County Parks and Recreation in late January.

Upower is headquartered in a small corner of the Rainier Oven building in the Central Area, moving there in 2016. Moseley said she loves the space and the location, which makes it easy to reach service areas in central and southern parts of the city.