Cloudinary Blog

Community Spotlight: A Second U Foundation

Juli Greenwood
By Juli Greenwood
Community Spotlight: A Second U Foundation

I was first introduced to A Second U Foundation through a social post by a dear friend who works for Bombas, which happens to be a Cloudinary customer, and as I came to learn, a corporate supporter of the Foundation.

They’ve been getting a lot of high-profile, well-deserved coverage lately so I expect the name might not be new to you. If you’re not already familiar, I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know the inspiring organization a bit through this Q&A with its founder Hector Guadalupe. And then maybe go work out—and sweat—with them over Zoom.

Can you tell us about A Second U Foundation? What led you to start the organization and the mission behind it?

After serving a decade in federal prison, I came home having developed a passion for fitness and acquired multiple fitness certifications while inside. I came back to New York hungry for work, but there were a lot of closed doors because of my incarceration. Despite the challenge of discrimination, I finally convinced a manager to give me an opportunity. I took it seriously, worked seven days a week with no vacation for years, and it paid off. I developed a strong client base and eventually started my own personal training business. I saw other guys coming home, and got them into the fitness industry too. I decided to formalize the process as A Second U Foundation, where we educate, provide national certification, and job placement for formerly incarcerated people as personal trainers throughout New York City. We have opened the doors for 196 trainers, and 0 have reoffended.

Our new normal due to Covid has brought us all online for work and play in new ways. What lessons have you learned about connecting with your audience virtually? And has anything surprised you about the way the fitness industry seems to have pivoted so well to virtual training?

During Covid and connecting virtually has developed a new and different sense of trust. We have been able to share and relate in new ways because we are in their homes, and we are as a country going through something together. It’s different than someone popping in and out of a gym. We see their kids, their dogs run by the screen, and we are all feeling vulnerable about the situation our country is in. When we ask, “How are you spending your days?” or “How are you?” it hits differently during this time. Trainers are also able to share their experiences in isolation or time in prison helping to connect us in a different way.

I’m not surprised that graduates of Second U have pivoted, one our strong suites is being resourceful because of the way our lives have evolved. The challenges we faced have made being resourceful and able to pivot necessary and one of our greatest assets.

How can allies and volunteers get involved and where do you need the most help?

Our organization gets people to work. With gyms not open, we want to continue to have people train virtually, so training with one of our graduates is always helpful.

We want corporate health clubs and boutique studios to partner with us, which can strength the culture of their organizations and help provide jobs for underserved communities. We also want to continue to partner with corporations, not as a one time donation, but developed partnerships to help give our graduates work, and for corporations to support their employees mental and physical health.

Working with one of our trainers, connecting us to people in your circle who may be interested, and spreading the word are all great ways to help.

Where do you envision A Second U going from here? What's next?

We are pivoting to distance learning, which is a growing experience for us. We are also always looking for ways to strengthen our program so it’s not just a job, or certification people are getting, but really thinking about all the tools helpful in coming home. We want to expand mindfulness and yoga practices into our curriculum.

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