by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Students in Neylana Bezerra's Zumba Gold class at the Milwaukie Center dance to the beat of international music.   If any of your New Year’s resolutions for 2013 include fitness and health or upping your mental acuity, then the Milwaukie Center has you covered.

Classes at the center take place in the morning, afternoon and evening, and 25 of the more than 30 fitness and health classes are set up specifically for seniors. But Tina Johnson, the recreation coordinator for the Milwaukie Center, noted that there are 10 classes for children, and others aimed at people of all ages.

Why offer so many classes?

“I want to bring more people into the Milwaukie Center. We offer night classes for all ages, because some seniors don’t want to drive at night, and we also have after-school classes for children. It makes me sad not to have people here,” Johnson said.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - James Lusk has been a tai chi instructor at the Milwaukie Center for eight years; above, he leads one of his classes through a series of tai chi movements.Many of the fitness classes are designated for people age 62 and above, and fitness is an excellent goal, for many reasons, Johnson said.

“It gives you more energy and helps you think more clearly; it helps control your appetite and is good for weight loss, and helps control diabetes and heart disease. Fitness classes help you to be more social, give you confidence and open doors for so many other things,” she said.

Some of the instructors, like Tina Hall and Sarah Stauss, have worked at the Milwaukie Center for 20 years or more, and specialize in “building relationships with students. And the students build relationships with each other; it is a support system. These classes are about more than fitness. What makes the Milwaukie Center so special is that I see a lot of healthy, happy people here, and it takes time to build that,” Johnson said.

James Lusk, the tai chi teacher, has taught at the center for eight years, and built up the program from one class to four, because he is “knowledgeable and passionate about what he does,” she noted.

Johnson recommends that people try out classes and go into those classes with realistic expectations.

“I’m going to take line dancing, which is different from what I am used to doing. I’m going to do something new, and if I fail, that is OK; at least I tried. I’d love it if everybody had the same attitude,” she said.

She added, “We charge less than $5 a class, which is a lot less than a studio or gym charges. And we offer scholarships to people 55 and over, who live in the district — so there is no excuse.”

Fitness classes

For people just starting out, Johnson recommended Bodyfit, taught by Peggy Latshaw.

“It is a great intro class for somebody new to exercise. The instructor is warm and welcoming and she works on the whole body, using stretch bands, hand weights and fun music,” Johnson said.

Zumba Gold, designed for the active older adult, uses Latin music and dance styles, and is so popular that there are now three classes offered.

The instructor, Neylana Bezerra, is also offering two special Zumba parties, one on Feb. 8 and another on March 15, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., that are family oriented and all ages are welcome, Johnson noted.

Other tried-and-true fitness offerings include conditioning classes, several yoga classes, and stretch and flexibility training.

Johnson is excited about the offerings for children this term at the Milwaukie Center, including art, music and dance classes, some “great thinking activities,” a field trip to the Children’s Museum and zoo and a spring break Survivor Camp, based on the television show “Survivor.”

One new class is called Intro to Rock ‘n’ Roll Instruments, and all children aged 7 to 10 have to do is show up.

“The teacher brings in all the instruments, like guitars, keyboards and drum set. Kids learn the basic beats and learn music terminology. It is a great way to learn about music in a good atmosphere and parents don’t have to buy any instruments,” Johnson said.

A partnership with a local company, Williams International Academy, has resulted in the return of a popular class called Alpha-Bot-Robotics for Kids, taught by Martin Tauc, and a brand new class, Chess for Kids, taught by Alexandra Botez, an internationally ranked chess player, who is a senior at Clackamas High School.

In the Alpha-Bot class, the children use Lego bricks and other types of robotics training systems to learn building and programming skills.

“This is a 10-week class, but students can drop in for one class for $15, to see how they like it,” Johnson said.

As for that chess class, aimed at ages 6 to 13, Sanda Williams, the owner of Williams International Academy, said Botez is very excited about the opportunity to teach children.

“She is our star and an internationally ranked champion. I’ve been told she can see 10 moves ahead in a chess game, and she has worked with chess masters — so why not work with the best,” Williams said.

“She is dedicated and used to using her training, and she wants to make the Milwaukie Center a chess center.”

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