Intern gets deskbound employees up and walking

Emeka Obinnakwelu Jr.

Emeka Obinnakwelu Jr.

It’s in the news every day: sedentary desk jobs can be hazardous to your health.

That’s why Youngstown State University senior Emeka Obinnakwelu Jr. dedicated this semester to helping YSU employees get active.

Obinnakwelu, an exercise science major serving an internship in the university’s Employee Wellness Program, devised a lunch hour campus walking regimen, serving as advisor, encourager and exercise consultant for the 41 faculty and staff participants.

His supervisor, wellness coordinator Carrie Clyde, started off by asking Obinnakwelu to review the results of employee surveys, reports and health screenings. “I was overwhelmed at first, there was so much information,” he said, “but it helped me to learn what the employees wanted and needed.”

In the eight-week Wellness Walker program he created, participants signed up to walk anytime between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the WATTS, YSU’s indoor training center.

Walkers received incentive points to earn cash and were eligible to win other prizes, such as t-shirts, drink bottles and gift cards. Obinnakwelu monitored the walkers, answered questions, and emailed each participant personalized health tips based on information they provided in their pre-exercise survey. “People seemed to like the program,” he said. “They kept asking me to keep it going.”

Obinnakwelu’s family lives in Union, N.J., about 30 minutes from New York City – his parents emigrated here from Nigeria, but he and his three siblings were born in the United States. His younger brother, a freshman, is also studying at YSU.

Obinnakwelu came to the university on an academic scholarship and regularly makes the Dean’s List. He’s been involved in Student Government and is active in the Golden Key International Honor Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

He is on track to complete his YSU BS in Applied Science in Exercise Science this fall and plans next to pursue a doctorate in Physical Therapy. He’s looking into several schools that offer the program, but YSU is at the top of his list. “I really like it here,” he said. “It’s my home away from home.”