WREC aims to foster inclusive environment

Brooke Magnotta, program supervisor for the Wildcat Recreation Center, strives to make the center an inviting space for all students on campus. Photo credit: Claire Martinez

Walking into a gym with a two-story rock wall and enough weight racks to already make one feel sore can be intimidating enough.

However, the Wildcat Recreation Center is making positive strides toward a more inclusive environment for all who want to take advantage of the facility.

Brooke Magnotta, program supervisor for the WREC, is one of the faces behind inclusion at the gym. She moved to Chico for college and fell in love with teaching group exercise classes and personal training, she said.

“When they were building the WREC, I had my eye on the prize,” Magnotta said. “They’re going to need a group exercise instructor, and it needs to be me.”

A few years after she was hired, her supervisor moved on to another campus and Magnotta took over the position. She oversees 70 student staff members, group exercise classes, personal training, special events and the fitness floor.

Aside from her daily obligations at work, Magnotta has been working to make the WREC an inviting place for every student.

“I have a really strong desire to make the WREC an inclusive space for everyone on campus,” Magnotta said. “You’re here because you want to feel good. I am so proud of all of our instructors and the variety of classes we offer. Each one is unique and appeals to the participant in its own way.”

With the help of Magnotta, the facility has made some important changes to implement the vision of inclusion during the past few years. Some of these include:

  • A change in the pool attire policy that allows members to wear T-shirts in the swimming pool.
  • A renaming of the family bathroom to the single-occupancy restroom in an effort to remove any symbols that may make individuals feel the need to identify with a gender.
  • A banner hung in the entryway of the facility proclaiming its dedication to an inclusive environment.
  • A written policy for transgender athletes and clear guidelines that express encouragement of participation for all in intramural sports teams.
  • A large percentage of the center’s staff becoming Safe Zone certified.
  • Training sessions for the staff emphasizing the importance of using body-positive gestures when teaching classes and working with clients.
  • A current project to establish an alternate entry for students to enter the pool area without having to walk through the men’s or women’s locker rooms.
  • An expansion of the weight room to add a free weight area in hopes of creating more space for members.

Magnotta is also involved with the Transgender Task Force on campus, which has opened up her eyes to challenges people face every day, she said.

Specifically, the implementation of the single-occupancy bathroom was one of Magnotta’s ideas.

“Many people don’t realize the difficulty some transgender students face when having to choose to use a bathroom based on gender expression,” she said. “We wanted to create a place where they didn’t have to do that.”

In addition to the Transgender Task Force, Magnotta works closely with the Embodied club, an organization on campus to ensure students of all sizes feel comfortable at the center.

“We want to be here for students to feel strong and empowered,” Magnotta said. “We want exercise and physical activity to be a positive thing for everyone —whatever that looks like. Our goal is to offer such a diversity in programming.”

Magnotta and the WREC staff continue to address areas of improvement as they come to their attention and try to be as proactive as possible, she said.

“Whether you enjoy playing table tennis, intramural sports, lifting weights, swimming, group exercise, personal training or working out on your own, our hope is that we offer something for everyone,” Magnotta said.

Claire Martinez can be reached at [email protected] or @clairelmartinez_ on Twitter.