Stories That Inspire: Meet 4 Kids From Bench Mark Program

These 4 kids shared their stories of challenge and perseverance.

“At Bench Mark Program’s core is the belief that if we can build a young adult’s self confidence, we can give them the strongest tool imaginable to combat adversity in their lives. If they come to the gym and learn, through experience, that they can be really good at doing something that is hard for most people, like weightlifting, that feeling of confidence will spill into other challenges in their lives. We are using weightlifting as a tool to give students a ‘win’— something that they can fall back on say, ‘hey, I conquered that weight, I surprised myself, and I believe that in this new context and in the face of new challenges, I can do it again.’” – Will Kiefer, founder of Bench Mark Program

Bench Mark Program is focused on investing in at-risk youth by providing positive, long-lasting support needed to achieve future goals and success. The program matches youth from the community with mentors who also act as trainers, teaching kids through weightlifting, exercise, academic counseling, and career development. The guidance these mentors give provides sustainable leadership training and growth.

Fig Lancaster is partnering with Bench Mark Program all year long as part of the Community Supporter program (read more about it here!).

Read the below stories and be inspired by four kids who have grown through Bench Mark Program and look to begin impacting the community around them.

Lorenzo Montanez

“I am just trying to pass on to people that, you know, the world isn’t always a nice place… but that’s not to say there isn’t nice people that can make the world better. And I feel like, if we just pass on that message, even if we can change or alter one person’s thinking in a good way, or just make one person think ‘hey, this is the right choice’, then we did our job.”

Lorenzo has been attending Bench Mark Program since July 2017. He initially went to Common Wheel to see if he could get a bike to help him get around the City. Then, they told him about Bench Mark.

“So I started coming here, and completely forgot about the bike. This place [Bench Mark] was awesome.”

Lorenzo follows a standard schedule each week, incorporating arm day, leg day, and mixed martial arts. He always reserves time to incorporate at least a little mixed martial arts into his routine, so he can keep his edge.  He also likes to assist kids who are beginning to attend the program.

“I love helping other kids. It’s just giving back—it’s the right thing to do.”

Moving forward, Lorenzo wants to join the National Guard, go for either a Psychology for Computer Science/Engineering degree, and then go into the US Marine Corps. His goals are big—and he’s excited to go after them.

Jose Rodriguez

Jose started in Bench Mark Program once his brother Lorenzo was there.

“I bring my homework in because it’s something that I’m struggling with, and the Bench Mark mentors are usually pretty good at helping me with that.” And if Jose doesn’t have homework to do, he’ll “just kind of chill because it’s a good environment.”

If he started his own program like Bench Mark, Jose had a few ideas of what he’d do.

“I would definitely offer educational support. Help with learning, school, anything that kids are struggling with. Also, I would want to make it a good environment for the kids. So that they would feel comfortable. Just to make them feel as welcome as possible.”

Jose has his eye on entrepreneurship. He wants to be his own boss someday and create a business in the community. Though he isn’t sure what yet, he is looking forward to building towards that goal.

Hector Pagan

“I learned discipline [at Bench Mark], and on top of that I learned how to get along with other people, how to calm myself down.”

Hector needed a place to channel his frustrations, his energy. His friend Brandon told him about Bench Mark Program and explained how it’s a good place to channel those things in a healthy, productive, and positive way.

“I can come to the gym and release it through exercise,” Hector said. Now he wants others to follow that trend. “I helped a lot of kids understand that. Kids that have been through what I’ve been through. Many kids can be angry, so I’d push them towards something that releases anger. Some kids who are ashamed of their size, they can do cardio and make it fun, play games.”

Bench Mark Program offers opportunity for kids to have a safe space to grow. Hector hopes that the physical space at the gym grows in size too.

“What we need is a bigger space, so we can get even more crowded!”

He has been studying any chance he can so he can go into the Army, and looks to build on the strong self confidence and personal motivation he has worked hard to establish.

Joshua Reyes

Joshua began Bench Mark program in October 2017, and has been attending ever since.

“One of the staff members came to The Mix and started training with us,” said Joshua. And the rest was history.

Josh enjoys learning more about weightlifting and execercise, and thinks it’s a helpful program to have offered to all the kids in the community. Sometime in the future, he is looking forward to pursuing a career in mechanics, construction, or carpentry.

“I like to weight lift,” he added. “It’s something I’ve always done before, but not regularly. I want to deadlift 450 by age 18.”

His birthday is a few months away—so he continues to work hard at his deadlift goal!

Snapshots of the logo and part of the epic mural inside the gym. 

These are just a handful of stories. Many kids are impacted daily through this incredible program, and continue to inspire the community through hard work, learning, and growing together.

Discover even more stories and learn about Bench Mark Program online on their website. If the mission of Bench Mark Program resonates with you, know that they are in need of a new space to carry on this mission—feel free to contact the team regarding opportunities to assist in this way, or if you’re interested in mentoring, want to donate, or have ideas to help. Fig is excited to be alongside Bench Mark Program in 2018 and looks to strengthen that partnership far into the future.

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