The school where the P&C gets up a sweat

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Narelle Sykes, left, and keep-fit organiser Steph Hinds hit the floor at Mt Rogers Primary School. Photo: Holly Treadaway

“It’s a safe environment, you go, you sweat, you leave with a smile. And that’s why I go back – there’s no judgement,” Steph Hinds tells reporter DANIELLE NOHRA about the Mount Rogers Primary School P&C’s long-running, fundraising fitness program.

AN exercise program, which is held three nights a week at Mount Rogers Primary School, is putting money back into the school, while participants get fit at the same time.

For almost 20 years parents and community members have been turning up to Mount Rogers for these P&C-run exercise classes but the story behind the program goes back even further. 

Former jazzercise instructor Narelle Sykes, 59, of Flynn, hatched the idea in 1994 for Flynn Primary School. She had children there at the time and was working in the school system, so she went straight to the school principal and pitched him the program.

The principal agreed and they started the next week.

“We raised a lot of money over the years,” Narelle says.

“It was very popular and sometimes we didn’t have enough room to do our abs on the floor.”

Long-time exerciser Narelle Sykes, left, with instructor Aimee Harris and P&C organiser Steph Hinds. Photo: Holly Treadaway

It was like that for a while, but then she says they were forced to move to another location when Flynn Primary School was closed. After the school’s closure, Narelle approached Mount Rogers Primary School in the early 2000s because it was close to Flynn and she knew the office manager there. 

And that’s where it’s been ever since, but these days Steph Hinds, 38, of Melba, manages the program.

Steph’s four children attended Mount Rogers Primary School, with her first entering the school in 2011. But she didn’t try the program until about 2013 saying the idea of the classes was a bit intimidating.

“I don’t do gyms, but I love this,” she says. 

“It’s a great sense of community. I’ll contact the ladies outside of exercise, too.

“It’s [also] a stress-free environment and it’s a bonus that the school reaps the rewards.”

After about six years of attending two of the three classes a week, Steph says it’s become her “me” time.

She tends to go to the group PT class and the boxing class, but there’s also a Zumba class, which Narelle likes to attend. 

“It’s a safe environment, you go, you sweat, you leave with a smile. And that’s why I go back – there’s no judgement,” Steph says. 

Even though neither Steph or Narelle have children at Mount Rogers Primary School any more, they both still love being part of its community. 

Steph, who is also a P&C member of the school says: “I love the community, I feel like I’m making a difference and I really enjoy the space and the people involved in it.”

She says the small school, of more than 500 students, is only going to get bigger and there’s only so much the ACT government provides, so the money raised through the classes is important. 

One of the exercise groups that train three nights a week at Mount Rogers Primary School.

“This day and age, it’s not just chalk and talk. The resources are more expensive,” she says. 

“I do see that we’re making a difference and I do see we’re helping the school.

“All the instructors get paid, but at the end of the day it’s a community service, not a business.” 

After paying the instructors, all the proceeds go back into the school and Steph and Narelle have seen the money go towards things such as books, resources, sporting equipment and the library. 

“Last year we managed to raise about $2300, which is the highest amount since I’ve been involved, so fingers crossed it continues to grow,” Steph says. 

For people who are interested in joining, she says the classes are cheap, too – only $8 for one class, $14 for two and $20 for three. 

And, she says they’re always running. In fact, since 1994 Narelle reckons they’ve only ever cancelled less than a handful of times, including classes over the school holidays, too. 

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Danielle Nohra
Danielle Nohra is a "CityNews" staff journalist.

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