Located in a part of South Los Angeles where good news can be hard to come by, Samuel Gompers Middle School serves as an oasis for students, with large outdoor spaces where they can enjoy school picnics and other special events.

Volunteers spruce up Gompers Middle School as part of the Team8 Tour project.

Now, thanks to the support of its community partners, the oasis has been extended indoors. A new state-of-the-art fitness center and dance studio opened last week, offering students a venue for getting in shape and expressing themselves through physical movement. And the venues remain open until 6 p.m. on schooldays so that students can take advantage of the facilities after classes end.

“What this means for our students is that they get physically fit and emotionally fit and mentally fit,” said Principal Blanca Esquivel, noting that some parents are fearful of letting their children play in neighborhood parks. “In this community, they don’t have many facilities to work out. This gives them a chance to be more fit, more mobile.”

The Gompers project kicked off the third annual Team8 Tour, sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, UnitedHealthcare and CBS EcoMedia. Mira Pranata, a Pupil Services and Attendance counselor, helped connect Gompers administrators with the sponsors.

Volunteers prepare apple-and-mango salad for the Gompers celebration.

Dozens of volunteers worked last week to renovate the school’s aging dance studio, adding paint, wooden flooring and mirrors. They also upgraded the old weight room into a fitness center, with dumbbells and kettlebells, spinning bikes, a rowing machine and other strength and agility equipment. Finally, they cleaned up the campus garden and installed a barbecue grill for use during school events.

“We’re so excited to bring the Team8 Tour back to Los Angeles to support the community’s commitment to providing a safe place for students to grow, learn, and exercise healthy lifestyle habits,” said Steve Salem, president and CEO of the Ripken Sr. Foundation. “With the help of our partners, we’ll be able to make some of the spaces in the school more useful – not only for the students, but for members of the entire community as well.”

Local District South Superintendent Christopher Downing joins the Gompers Middle School community at the opening of the new studio and fitness center.

The Team8 Tour also hosted a fitness clinic with student-athletes and coaches, led by nationally renowned trainer Chris Welsh. Together with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, volunteers packed take-home food kits and prepared a healthy community dinner – turkey burgers and an apple-and-mango salad – to conclude the activities.

”The project in Los Angeles was a great way to kick off the third annual Team8 Tour and an opportunity to inspire young people to take charge of their health and make a difference in their communities,” said Robert C. Falkenberg, CEO of  UnitedHealthcare of California.

Esquivel, who hopes to start a dance class soon for parents, appreciates the campus improvements.

“It was a wonderful gift, and a very caring gift,” she said. “We’re very grateful.”


Click here to watch a video of the Team8 Tour event.