InnerCity Weightlifting

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When I was on the Cabot Celebrity cruise, I met an incredible man named Jon Feinman.  I was extremely inspired by everything he does with InnerCity Weightlifting and knew that you would be, too.  Read on!


Jon is a personal trainer with a Masters in Business Administration.  He was searching for a way to make a difference in his community when an idea struck him:  perhaps Boston’s at-risk teens could be saved poverty and violence through weightlifting.

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He created InnerCity Weightlifting with $10,000 of his own seed money, and then recruited a team of volunteer coaches (who were also personal trainers). Together with the Boston Police Department and social services, they reached out to young people involved in the city’s gang culture; most of InnerCity Weightlifting students have been jailed at least once.


Jon’s vision for mentoring these teenagers was simple: he’d bring them to the InnerCity Weightlifting gym, teach them about weights and nutrition, and offer the teens a safe outlet for their time and energy.


Definitely watch the following video if you’re looking for a hefty dose of inspiration…  The video (and the words from the mentors and students) explain the program a million times better than I ever could.  As this ESPN story on Jon and InnerCity Weightlifting say, the organization “reaches out to men who society gave up on long ago and teaches them about true strength.”

The focus of InnerCity Weightlifting is on emotional stability, healthy coping mechanisms, and long-term goals, including graduating and getting a job.  Many students at InnerCity Weightlifting go on to get certified to become a personal trainer like their mentors.  And once this happens, they can train members of the public at the gym and earn money.


At first, InnerCity Weightlifting included just four teens – but just eight months later, there were over 100 students involved in the program.  They come to InnerCity Weightlifting for the gym, but they stay for the emotional connection to the mentors.  “You can actually feel the love coming out of this building,” says one student.


“Not all of our students make it out, and there’s a lot of recidivism,” says Jon.   It’s worth noting, however, that the recidivism rate for InnerCity Weightlifting’s students is half – yes, half! – of all juvenile offenders in Boston.


“Our program is proving to be one of the most successful in the country, and once our young people are given a chance and shown a better way, most of them take it. We can’t just write off certain young people, and this is a program that deals with the hardest situations out there,” Jon concludes.  With more than 80 teens on the organization’s waiting list, Jon is currently seeking funding to expand InnerCity Weightlifting’s gym space to serve a grand total of 200 students.


To learn more about InnerCity Weightlifting, check out their website and Facebook page.  As a non-profit, Jon and his team always appreciate donations.



  • Ali February 21, 2014, 1:38 pm

    This is such a great cause! I love that started such a great organization to help at-risk teens. That statistic is also scary that only 1% of people are responsible for that much violence. It does, however, make it easier to target those 1% and hopefully get them off the streets and help gang violence.

    • Caitlin February 21, 2014, 1:42 pm

      That’s a very positive way to look at it – you’re right!

  • Megan February 21, 2014, 1:48 pm

    I saw this story on espn! Amazing.

  • Michelle February 21, 2014, 2:02 pm

    YES! So happy you featured Jon on your blog. I actually commented on an earlier post about the cruise because I knew he had been on the same trip. I work in a Boston Public High school and previously worked at a center for students in Boston who had been suspended or expelled from their schools. Jon would come in a couple times a month to try and recruit members. We had one student M who had been to the center several times and was just not being successful at school. He joined InnerCity Weightlifting and completed a bullying program at the center – and all of a sudden – it was a totally different kid! Although I am SO happy that he no longer is getting into trouble at school, I do wish we could hear from him now and then. I can’t say enough about this program and Jon. He is such an awesome guy! So happy he was recognized for all of his hard work too.

    • Caitlin February 21, 2014, 2:06 pm

      me too! to all of it 🙂 also – jon brought one of the ICW students with him on the cruise. how cool is that?

  • Ellen @ Wannabe Health Nut February 21, 2014, 2:37 pm

    This is one of the best business ideas I have heard of…possibly ever! Inspiring, indeed! Thanks for sharing.

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs February 21, 2014, 3:23 pm

    Amazing! Inspirational, indeed!

  • Abi@AbsofSteel February 21, 2014, 3:28 pm

    this is so awesome. Exercise can be such a powerful tool in helping people grow, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. I can only aspire to bring people together in this way one day 🙂

  • Shannon February 21, 2014, 3:30 pm

    Wow, that’s a very powerful movement he’s behind!

  • Amber @ Healthy, Wealthy & DIYs February 21, 2014, 3:35 pm

    Love love love this! So inspiring. My husband and I both love to lift weights, so I loved this story. I kind of want to start my own InnerCity Weightlifting now!

  • Abby February 21, 2014, 3:48 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! Truly inspiring. We need more Jon’s in the world. I was so moved that I have already donated. Thank you Caitlin.

  • Lyndsey February 21, 2014, 4:02 pm

    Certainly one of your best blog posts. What a great video, cause, man, student…just wow. Very inspired and a perfect way to head into the weekend.


  • Bonnie February 22, 2014, 1:04 am

    Wow…I read often but am not a consistent commenter, but I had to say that Jon is amazing…what he’s doing to make a profound impact in the lives of men (and therefore families) in Boston is incredible. I’ve only been there once and saw the touristy stuff; it’s a good reminder of the realities every area has and the people who are often overlooked. Love that he’s using the gym as a means to an end with these guys…Thanks so much for sharing!

  • laura February 22, 2014, 7:48 am

    This is really inspiring. I’m sending this to one of my best friends who works for Teach for America in Boston. The world needs more people like Jon.

  • Katie sB February 22, 2014, 7:08 pm

    This is very cool!

  • Runner Girl Eats February 23, 2014, 8:27 am

    This is awesome. thank you so much for sharing! I love hearing stories like these.

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