Finding time to exercise can be a hassle, especially for working adults with family commitments or financial constraints. To diminish the hurdles to a good workout, a group of Ball State students participated in an immersive learning experience in fall 2013 to create a community-based nutrition, exercise, and child care program for Muncie residents. Their first effort: introducing them to the Latin-inspired, dance fitness program known as Zumba.   

The students' Zumba class met at Muncie's Buley Community Center. Twice each week for an hour, upwards of 20 to 30 local women and men sweated it out with the students in the free program. After exercising, the participants ate a free, healthy meal carefully planned and prepared by dietetic majors.   

The success of the pilot Zumba class has been encouraging to project director Shannon Powers, an instructor in the School of Kinesiology.   

"The fact that the program was absolutely free guaranteed its success," she says. "There is a paucity of physical activity programs in Delaware County. If Muncie and Ball State could partner on a master plan for the city in 10 years, it should include physical activity programs to draw more people to the area. I am impressed with the Whitely neighborhood and its residents’ desire to be physically active."   

For the project, Powers worked in 2013 to secure a $2,000 grant from the IndianaAlliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. Funding allowed for eight local participants to get certified as Zumba Basic 1 instructors. In return, those instructors can now sustain the Zumba class at the Buley Center and other possible locations in Muncie.   

Powers says, “They can use their Zumba instructor certification to spread their passion for a healthy and physically active lifestyle. I’m hoping it has a ripple effect in the community.”   

For students like Emily Rapoza, teaching Zumba at the Buley Center has given back more to her than she expected.   

“This immersive learning project has created an environment that allows me to do what I love, which is teaching Zumba, as well as become involved with other students at Ball State and members of the Muncie community.”   

While teaching Zumba at Buley, Rapoza saw firsthand how the course made an impact on the Muncie community.   

“One woman had been wanting to get certified and was thrilled to know that we would be able to give her the means to become a Zumba instructor,” Rapoza says. “Knowing that I was part of a project that could make someone’s dream a reality is an incredible feeling.”   

Students in the interdisciplinary project, which included dietetics, history, health science, and elementary education majors, presented nutritious meals with healthy alternatives to typical ingredients.   

“The students made some delicious entrées as part of the program,” Powers says. “The participants loved the cookbook. I hope the cookbook will be beneficial to those of the general public. We’re hoping the program creates a self-sustaining healthy lifestyle for Muncie.”