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She's Serving - And Serving Those Who Serve

Amanda Kurtz | KzooConnect

As a young girl, Amanda Kurtz struggled through Kalamazoo Public Schools. After what Kurtz describes as nearly "failing out of kindergarten," she was diagnosed with severe dyslexia, difficulty integrating auditory and visual information. Through elementary school, she had a tutor to help with all reading and writing, accommodations that continued in college at Western Michigan University. Ultimately, Kurtz heartily embraced hands-on learning and graduated from WMU with a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology. Though she may have struggled with school early on, Kurtz doesn't dwell on her learning disability. Instead, she's spent her life focusing her considerable energy and talent where she excels, helping others.

Kurtz's college degrees were inspired by her sports background and high activity level, coupled with her love of helping people. With master's degree in hand, she began work. Her first careers included a stint in cardiac rehab, "Too slow paced," said Kurtz. That's when she turned her attention to the field of community wellness.

Always looking for fun opportunities to stay busy, Kurtz joined the fire academy while in college to keep a friend company. She completed that training, and has worked for the Oshtemo Township Fire Department as a paid-on-call firefighter since 2010.

In that position, Kurtz began to see the need for health and wellness programs for fire, police and first responders. While most departments require a basic yearly physical, professionals in these fields often find themselves under much physical and even emotional stress. Kurtz decided to bring additional support to her own department, utilizing her education. Almost seven years ago, she started offering individual strength and conditioning training to her fellow firefighters, as an unpaid volunteer. According to Kurtz, attendees reported weight loss, improved endurance, strength and flexibility. Those sessions led to small group classes with other members of the department.

"My goal is to get people to think about the way that they move and work, thinking about stretching and body mechanics," shared Kurtz. "People tell me, 'I know how to walk up stairs,' well, your knee hurts so maybe you don't."

Today, Kurtz works all hours of the week - dividing her time between the Oshtemo Fire Department and Borgess Health & Fitness Center, where she does personal training and wellness programs nearly 30 hours a week. In addition, Kurtz is the strength and agility trainer for WMU's Synchronized Skating Club.

One day Kurtz hopes to operate her own business offering firefighters, law enforcement, military and others tactical training classes, assessments, injury recovery, nutrition programs and more. She's obtaining certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association in its Tactical Strength and Conditioning Program.

Even in her free time Kurtz, along with her husband Dan, is all around Kalamazoo - enjoying their favorite spots. For eating out, that usually means Erbelli's on Stadium Drive or Hunan Gardens on West Main Street. While not a big beer drinker, Kurtz likes Kalamazoo downtown bars like Hop Cat, Bell's Brewery, Shakespeare's Pub and Green Top Tavern. She also finds time to sew, craft, garden, mountain bike and play softball.

"Kalamazoo is a friendly community, not such a big area that you feel overwhelmed - not too big and not too small," Kurtz says. She also likes that she's close to Detroit and Chicago, and close to her favorite hiking and camping spots in Michigan.

Kurtz has some advice for anyone struggling with learning disabilities. "Don't let your feelings get hurt or be embarrassed by it. Ask for help if you need it. There is support all around you. Learn to be adaptable and explore your options."

It's clear to anyone who knows her - Kurtz is a woman embracing her options!

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