Our latest grant recipient, Dr. Mia Neil is the Founder and Director of the Women’s Health Education Program in Columbus, OH and has taught Fundamentals of Medical Biochemistry at The Ohio State University; Chemistry and Student Success at Columbus State Community College.
You’re a professor in medical biochemistry. How did you get started in empowering women through fitness?
I learned over the years that students underestimate the effect of their health and self-perception on their academic success. Every semester, discussions on the importance of a balanced lifestyle of healthy eating and daily exercise become predominant topics during our first lecture of courses.
As I gradually tied the science curriculum to health and fitness discussions, many young women shared their hesitation to join a gym because of low self-esteem, body-image issues and not knowing where or how to start. Their doubts of their abilities and their fear of failure became apparent, and I felt impelled to do something about it.
So what did you do to begin helping them?
I invited a group of girls to the gym and helped them get started with basic workouts. Few others joined me at a Zumba class and discovered their passion for dancing. Some just wanted to learn about how to make better food choices, so we worked on a meal plan and discussed nutrition labels during a grocery shopping tour.
How did this lead to you starting your own non-profit?
Being part of their daily fight against self-doubt and leading their breakthrough in personal growth became my greatest career accomplishment. Through my passion to help women and my eagerness to continue making an impact, I founded the Women’s Health Education Program (WHEP) and the WHEPFit Project for Health & Fitness. The project‘s goal is to educate girls and women on health issues and empower them with the knowledge and skill sets they need to be the best version of themselves.
I believe that many of our youth haven’t yet realized their true potential, and the right idea or person can lead them into the right path for improved health and personal success.
What’s next for your organization?
The WHEPFiT Health & Fitness Summer Camp this August, graciously made possible by the Movemeant Foundation, will impact the lives of 20 young women, ages 16-24, through educational and fitness projects. Our youth participants are recruited from non-traditional high schools, such as FOCUS Learning Academy, and come mostly from low-income families. By establishing our first generation of women advocates, we hope to spread a healthy message among families and friends, and establish leaders for upcoming youth activities, events and camps. For more information, check out WHEP’s website and on Facebook.