Breakfast club give students an edge

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
As part of the HEROES Breakfast club, every other Thursday, Yes Power Yoga owner Erin Rauscher leads a 45 minute yoga session at the Southridge Middle School cafeteria. Seventh-graders Arrington Hartke leaned against her partner, Bailey Keusch, as Rauscher led the group through a breathing exercise at the start of the Thursday morning session.


HUNTINGBURG — Nearly two hours before school began, sleepy-eyed teens and pre-teens arrived at the Southridge campus in Huntingburg and wandered into the middle school cafeteria for the school’s daily Breakfast Club.

But they weren’t there to eat.

As part of the school’s HEROES program — an acronym that stands for Healthy, Energetic, Ready, Outstanding, Enthusiastic, Schools — the middle school has contracted the services of Yes Power Yoga studio owner and instructor Erin Rauscher to lead yoga classes at the school every other Thursday morning.

“It’s fun because every morning you get to just stretch out your body,” said sixth-grader Paige Kemp following a session packed with meditative breathing, various poses and partner activities. “Then, when it’s time for class, you feel like you’re not even tired.”

About 25 students and teachers gathered this past Thursday for a half-hour session that focused on the spine.

Rauscher said her goal is to help students start the day on the right foot and become more mindful of the way their thoughts influence their overall mood. She also works with the school’s football team and other athletes.

Seventh-grader Blair Tretter stretched at the end of the yoga session.

She said the biggest benefit kids can get from attending her class is achieving a sense of clarity through conscious breathing. This helps with calming the part of the brain that regulates the fight or flight response when it feels threatened, leading to what she called an “amygdala hijack,” or an emotional hijack.

“It’s kind of making people aware that our breathing can get us out of what is called the ‘amygdala hijack’ of the brain and put you into the rational side of thinking,” she said.

The Southridge Breakfast Club originally started meeting in 1997, but shut down during the 2014-15 school year when club sponsor and middle school guidance counselor Doug Collins took over as the head coach of the Southridge softball team. The club and Collins returned in 2016-17 on the heels of HEROES grant funds.

When it’s not yoga day, kids are pumping iron in the weight room, running around the school’s indoor track and even occasionally swimming in the pool. A local gym owner has also come in to speak to kids about exercise and nutrition.

Seventh-graders Arrington Hartke, left, her partner, Bailey Keusch, and Reece Tretter and her partner, Claire Lanman, teamed up to try different yoga poses Thursday morning. "I don't do much with posture, I let them be kids," Rauscher said.

Collins stressed that participation in the club is entirely voluntary. He said about 18 kids attend each morning — sometimes there’s more than 40, and seldom do less than 10 participants show up.

“It’s always just kind of happened, and who’s here is here,” he added.

Eighth-grader Aidan Jochem regularly lifts weights early in the morning and said his favorite part of the club is knowing that he is improving. He also likes knowing that not many of his peers are willing to get up early to work out.

The club is promoted to middle-schoolers, but high school students are welcome to participate as well.

Jochem’s advice to an outsider?

“(I’d) just tell them that you’re going to be doing more than anyone else,” he said. “So, if you’re trying to get better at sports or just get bigger in general, it’s what you need to do.”

More on