By Meredith Kozikowski, Graduate Assistant for Employer Relations and Recruiting Services
What do you get when you combine physical activity, community and fun? Well, that would be VA Momentum and the super cool guys who started it all. JMU alumni Kevin Gibson and Alan Maynard started VA Momentum in 2012 and it has become one heck of a success.
How did it all get started, you ask? We talked to Kevin and Alan to learn how it all went down.
A little background on the guys- Kevin graduated from JMU in 2005 as a Public Administration major with a minor in social work. He went to Miami University (OH) for grad school and earned a master’s in Higher Education Administration in 2007. His first job out of school was as the Alternative Break Coordinator in the Office of Community Service at George Washington University.
As for Alan, he graduated from JMU in 2006 with a major in Communication Studies and minor in Music Industry. After graduation, he immediately went to Appalachian State for a “brief stint” in grad school. Once there, he realized the career field he thought he wanted to pursue (Community Counseling) wasn’t for him. So, after a semester, he came back to Harrisonburg (which he thought he’d never do!) because his girlfriend at the time (now wife) was finishing up her degree. While pursuing other career options, he became very interested in medicine/health, and became an EMT and phlebotomist- which he says was technically his first job.
I wondered how the experiences they each had at JMU helped to shape them into the business owners they are today.
Kevin told me, “I was super fortunate to be involved with orientation, SafeRides, alternative break program, MYMOM and other on campus initiatives. I’m very thankful for the mentors I had while at JMU who encouraged me to reflect on experiences and spend time discovering my passions and inspirations. They also provided me opportunities to serve in leadership roles. My undergrad experiences were incredibly powerful and set me up for success in my future endeavors.”
Alan continued saying, “Interestingly enough, I wasn’t a super ‘involved’ student at JMU. I absolutely loved my 4.5 years there, and while I wasn’t necessarily involved in a specific organization, I met some of my lifelong friends and my wife during those years. My undergraduate career at JMU allowed me to develop into the person that I am today, and make some pretty incredible memories along the way. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to get my Master’s degree from JMU in 2012 in College Student Personnel Administration while working there fulltime.”
While I already knew these guys were the real deal, I wanted to know the story behind it all. Alan began by telling me, “Kevin and I met while working in the Office of Alumni Relations at JMU in 2009. Him and I both left JMU after graduating -no, we didn’t know each other when we were students- but ultimately ended up back at JMU as staff members. As we became friends, we connected over shared experiences and similar pasts of us both being unhealthy and inactive during our high school and early college years. We were overweight and intimidated by active events because we felt like they weren’t for “people like us.” After doing some races together (most notably the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond), we realized there was potential for more inclusive, friendly, FUN active events in the Shenandoah Valley.
So, in 2012, we created the Valley 4th RUN. Participants could pick their own charity from a list of five partner organizations, and choose their own distance from a 1 mile, 5k, or 10k option. We wanted to do something that not only enriched the community through charitable work, but also created a positive impact on an individual basis by making the event accessible to all skill levels. The success and community response from that inaugural run made us realize there was a market for these kinds of events in the area, so we officially formed VA Momentum.”
While I know you both started at JMU, is there a way you have tied your community involvement back to the university?
“Aside from being ever-grateful to JMU for introducing us to each other, we continue to stay involved with the University by guest lecturing and maintaining valuable relationships with current administration. Some of our best and brightest interns are current JMU students as well. We recognize the potential that exists at JMU, and are always looking for ways to partner with the University to advance the community together.”
What do you two think the next 3-5 year might look like?
“We hope to stay true to our hometown Harrisonburg roots by maintaining and growing our foundational events here. We also hope to explore new ventures here and in other cities by matching healthy activity with meaningful social interactions. Our goal is to host a half marathon within that time frame and scale The Growler Team Relay to multiple cities across Virginia. We’d also love to build partnerships with our friends in the biking world, possibly through events or other initiatives.”
Last but not least, with students venturing to summer internship and full-time roles, what advice do you have ?
Kevin ended by saying, “I didn’t realize how much development would happen in my life after graduation. While at JMU, I thought college was the place where everything would get sorted out and then life would happen after that. I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve grown, learned and developed since graduation. And what life has in store after graduation is incredibly fun and powerful, so try not to look at graduation as ‘the end.’
Instead, think about all that’s ahead and how determined you’ll be to tackle it. JMU has done its job when students leave as educated and enlightened citizens who go into the world to lead productive and meaningful lives. You’re ready for that and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently.”
To learn more about VA Momentum and how to participate in events in the community, click HERE!