Jeremy St. Aubin (in red) works with athletes
to improve their fitness.
A Community in Motion
Where in Ashley, ND, can you find seniors in high school hanging out with senior citizens? The community fitness center, that’s where. Thanks to the hard work of UND physical therapy graduate Jeremy St. Aubin (’98, ’99), the people of Ashley are enjoying a more active, healthier life.
St. Aubin left his hometown of Towner, ND, to attend the mortuary science program at Minot State University, but transferred to UND after two years to study physical therapy, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree with the program.
After graduation, he worked in Devils Lake and Grand Forks before moving with his wife, Lisa (Hauschulz) (B.S.N. ‘00), to Ashley in 2000 and starting work at Ashley Medical Center.
Two years ago, the superintendent of Ashley schools approached St. Aubin about a summer program for kids to prepare them for upcoming sports seasons. The problem was that the workout facilities consisted of a few weight benches in a six-foot by 10-foot furnace room at the school.
“Our goal was to be able to open up the school,” said Les Dale, Ashley’s superintendent. “We wanted to make it more of a community place. Some place all community members can use, not just students.”
|It’s everybody’s responsibility to try to make their community better...Just like you need to maintain your house, you need to maintain your community.
With the help of the school, Ashley Medical Center applied for and received a Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota Rural Health Grant, administered by the UND medical school’s Center for Rural Health, to upgrade the facilities. In addition, community members donated equipment and community organizations and businesses pitched in funds.
Ashley community members can now utilize two, 20-foot by 30-foot workout facilities that include cardiovascular and weight-training equipment suitable for a wide range of abilities.
“We went from 1956 to 2006 in a year,” St. Aubin said to explain the transformation.
“Jeremy is so helpful and very ambitious,” said Dale. “He really got the whole program running, purchased the equipment and was instrumental in getting programs started.”
Open from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. the facility hosts about 100 people every day including business people early in the morning, six ladies over the age of 65 who are regulars at about 9 a.m., school kids during physical education classes and physical therapy patients during the day, and high school athletes in the afternoon.
There is no fee to use the fitness center. It is maintained through donations, grant funds, memorials designated to the fitness center and other private funding.
“There are now community people here at the school every day rather than just for the occasional basketball game,” said Dale.
The fitness center serves as a source on inspiration. The brightly painted walls display motivational sayings and the school’s trophies and college and university pennants, reminding kids of what they have accomplished and what they can accomplish.
“There is virtually no vandalism,” said St. Aubin. “The kids have really bought into it.”
More than Fitness
The popularity of the fitness center has extended beyond its walls. With the help of federal Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility grants distributed by the Center for Rural Health, the health message has spread throughout the community. The community has established a basketball league in which anyone can play, referee or participate in other ways. There is a community tennis league and softball open and, on July 4 each year, community members participate in a skills challenge.
“There are now more things for the community to do,” said St. Aubin. “The whole town is in support of these efforts.”
Over the summer, St. Aubin holds a sports acceleration program for the athletes at the fitness center. Many attribute that program and the new fitness center with the recent success of the school’s teams in sports.
But, St. Aubin isn’t resting on his laurels. He continues to search out funding for his new ideas.
“Next, I’d like to set up a walking and exercise path with benches along the way,” St. Aubin explains. “On each bench would be described two exercises: one easy, one more difficult, that people can stop and do during their walk. The path would also have varying lengths so you could walk for as little or much as you want to.”
“It’s everybody’s responsibility to try to make their community better,” said St. Aubin. “You’re living in it. Just like you need to maintain your house, you need to maintain your community.”