04/04/2012 04:28 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2012

S.E.A.K. Foundation Builds After-school Programs to Help Teens Find Support and Inner-confidence

Let's all take a second, and think back to when we were around the age of 13. How did you feel about yourself at that age? How comfortable were you with your body? I don't know about you, but I was extremely insecure, shy and uncomfortable. I felt awkward in my own skin and most of the time I wished I was invisible -- especially at school. I wasn't the most feminine girl. I had super short hair and I was extremely scrawny with no curve to my body, so I hid myself underneath baggy clothing.

I will never forget the day I showed up to my 7th grade science class to find out that we had a substitute teacher. My sub called on me to read aloud to the class. However, he thought I said my name was Jeffrey and not Jenny, because he had just assumed I was a boy. I did not respond when he repeatedly called me Jeffrey and became enraged. He turned to the class and asked, "What's wrong with him? Why isn't he answering me?!" The whole class burst into laughter and I ran out of the room feeling humiliated. Before that class, I did not think it was possible for me to feel any more insecure about myself.

Being a teenager isn't easy. On top of dealing with hormonal changes and the drastic changes our bodies go through, adolescents have to deal with peer and family pressures, school bullies, and the pressure to fit into societal norms. It is common for teenagers to hold onto the insults that peers, friends, and/or family members say to them. Kids tend to take a negative comment that someone says about them and forever identify themselves with it. One comment can impact how we look at and think about ourselves for the rest of our lives. Every negative comment someone says about us can act as an inhibitor and has the power to become a road block to what we think we can achieve.

I used to teach ballet, hip hop, and jazz to teenagers as well as a teen cycling class at SoulCycle. Having been immersed into the lives of teenagers for several hours a week, I noticed there was a lack of support available to them. There are very few resources out there to help them feel confident and genuinely good about themselves. I became very aware of how emotionally fragile teenagers are and the amount of pressure they face at that age when my pilates clients would discuss the struggles they face with their teens on a daily basis. Recently, one of my clients shared that her 8 year-old daughter came home from school and asked if she was fat. Eight-years-old! My heart broke and a fire was lit inside of me. If this girl started worrying about her weight at 8 years-old, where will she be at 13 and how many other kids are asking themselves this very question?

With kids feeling this insecure about their bodies at such a young age, it is more important than ever to provide them with a support system where they can learn to accept who they are and not build on their insecurities, but rather, face them. This is what the S.E.A.K. Foundation aims to achieve. S.E.A.K., which stands for Strive, Embrace, Achieve, Know, is a non-profit organization I created to empower people to be confident in who they are through various educational programs and yearly events focused on physical and emotional health. The S.E.A.K. program discourages bullying, harassment, and self-hate due to body images issues, peer pressure, and unrealistic standards of beauty by promoting healthy lifestyle choices and participating in character-building exercises and discussions. In order to achieve our goal of implementing after school programs in New York City schools by the fall of this year, S.E.A.K. is holding its first annual fitness event during National Women's Health Week in order to bring awareness to S.E.A.K.'s cause and to help fund after-school programs.

On Thursday, May 17th, S.E.A.K. Foundation presents The Sports Bra Challenge 2012. This is a day of overcoming feelings of insecurity and body image issues, and is a starting point to living a life feeling confident in the body you have. This one-day outdoor fitness event is centered around people supporting and empowering one another to feel comfortable in our bodies -- exactly as we are at this moment. Along with two large-scale SoulCycle classes and a vinyasa yoga class, we are offering a complimentary signature Crunch Fitness POUND class to pre-teens and adolescents. We see this as an opportunity to bring families and kids from all over the New York City area together to support one another through fitness and fun!

New York City parents register your kids for the 4 p.m. complimentary signature CRUNCH Fitness POUND class on May, 17th 2012 here.

For more information on S.E.A.K. foundation visit our site at,