Auriel Canales Rojas says the Iron Rangers club at Northwest Middle School helps him feel more confident.

Auriel Canales Rojas has been waking up with some aches and pains in recent weeks, but he isn’t worried about it.

The 7th-grader at Northwest Middle School is part of the Iron Rangers, a weightlifting club that aims to help students gain confidence, develop relationships and foster self-discipline.

The club meets after school on Wednesday afternoons, and Canales said KCS social worker Brian Tunstall – the group leader – has reminded them that the soreness means they’re building muscle.

  • It makes me build strength and makes me feel confident every day,” Canales said.

A version of the Iron Rangers has met at Northwest intermittently for several years, but more recently the initiative has expanded.

  • An Iron Falcons club launched at Fulton High this year, and an Iron Navigators club is in its second year at Richard Yoakley School. New clubs are expected to launch at Holston Middle, South-Doyle Middle and Carter Middle next year.

In addition to the weekly meetings, participants get a t-shirt and a certificate of completion.

During a recent meeting at Northwest, Tunstall asked participants about their goals, which included losing weight, being able to focus and improving their grades.

The social worker encouraged the boys with a car metaphor, saying that working out can be a vehicle that helps you reach your goals. In an interview, he said the opportunity to connect with kids is “what makes my heart happy”:

  • Middle school is a hard age for young men. They’re trying to find their identity and where they fit in. Weightlifting is a big confidence and self-esteem booster.”



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