Jen Poljacik with some of her Kroc Center students.

Students in Jen Poljacik’s cycling class at the Green Bay, Wis., Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center have pedaled bikes together all the way to New Zealand and Hawaii, and across Route 66—without ever leaving the classroom.

Along the way, they have become fast friends.

Jen, a group fitness instructor and personal trainer who began working at the Kroc Center in 2021, teaches cycling, kickboxing and a mobility class. She also has created close-knit groups of students in her classrooms—the cycling class in particular.

“They come to class not just because of exercise. We consider each other to be family. It sounds simple, but we really care about each other,” Jen said.

Participants use fellow students’ vacation destinations as travel goals, riding miles on stationary bikes. They celebrate one another’s birthdays and anniversaries. They check in with one another if someone does not show up for class.

Major Malinda O’Neil and Jen

Bill Matheson, a cycling and kickboxing class participant, said he appreciates how Jen gets to know each and every participant.

“She greets them, gets to know their names and makes them feel like they fit right in,” Bill said. “Her great spirit and upbeat attitude put you in a great mood to start the day. She embodies what the Kroc Center is all about.”

Jen also has been recognized by her peers and received the Quality Service Keys Award from the Green Bay Kroc Center in 2023 for her exceptional commitment to the mission.

“It’s not very often you get to work alongside someone with the passion, initiative and knowledge like Jen’s, and we are all the better for it,” said Lexi Olinske, fitness and sports manager at the Kroc Center.

Jen, who has been a fitness instructor for 30 years, moved to the Green Bay area from New Hampshire in the summer of 2020.

Jen assists a cycling class participant.

“I came here and did not know a lot of people. They [the Kroc students] quickly became my friends,” she said.

Jen’s enthusiasm for exercise and for her students has been contagious. Class participants share snacks, play trivia games, dress in Green Bay Packers gear at times and get together outside of class too.

“There isn’t a week that goes by where the class isn’t celebrating an anniversary, birthday or milestone, and our members can’t get enough,” Lexi said. “They highlight holidays, no matter how small, and transform the cycle studio into a party that everyone wants to be a part of—all while working toward their individual fitness goals.”

“As God’s children we are very accepting of whatever level people are at,” Jen said. “I have an elite cyclist and a recovering heart attack patient, and everyone has a blast. No judging. We have a huge safety net of sharing and caring.

“It’s more than just a class,” Jen said. “I really truly love these people.”

 

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