When schools were shut down in March due to Governor Pritzker’s stay-at-home order, Melissa Kerpel, an attorney in Highland Park, and her daughter, Julia, were teaching Zumba classes at Highland Park High School. They were doing this through Working Together, a nonprofit that assists low-income kids and families in Highwood and the surrounding region. The question was, what to do now?
“Along with the schools lots of other activities, including Zumba, were closed down, and I told my mom, ‘We have to do something to keep everyone active and healthy,’” Julia Kerpel says. “So we started doing the livestream Zumba classes over Zoom and Twitch and everyone loved it.”
Julia, a freshman at Highland Park High School, and Melissa now teach five or six Zoom classes a week with attendance ranging from 30 to 40 for each session, including those from the Working Together along with members of the Recreation Center of Highland Park, where Melissa also taught classes. They’ve reconfigured the basement of their house into a Zumba studio to simulate a real Zumba class for their virtual audience.
Just like when they were offering physical classes, the online classes are free of charge and the Kerpels have tried to make it as easy as possible for people to log on for the sessions.
“The idea is for everyone to enjoy it and do something and get some exercise during the lockdown,” Melissa Kerpel says.
Some participants are asking how they can make a donation, and so the Kerpels are accepting them and donating them to the local food pantry in Highland Park and to Feeding America. They’ve raised and donated more than $1,500 to date.
The two are also trying to make sure they offer classes for all ages, and they aren’t the only two generations in the family who are certified Zumba instructors. Inez Garber, Melissa Kerpel’s 76-year-old mother and Julia’s grandmother, is also certified and is dialing into the classes.
“Our classes vary from regular Zumba, which is aerobic dance to latin music, to Zumba toning, which incorporates light weights for resistance training. Also, Julia spearheads Zumba kids, and she teaches songs that kids love, like Disney and more pop songs on the radio,” Melissa adds.
Julia Kerpel also does a craft project at the conclusion of her kids classes that involves using common items that can be found around the home.
While being able to offer their talents for free in a way that can benefit families and kids during this time is satisfying, it’s having a project mom and daughter can do together that’s the most fun.
“That’s one of the best parts of it. We’re silly and fun, but you know this is a very difficult time for everyone. A lot of the participants are watching the news,” Melissa says. “This is something to look forward to. We like to workout together, we enjoy the music together, we have fun together, and we like to share that joy with people online but also give back to the community. We try to share that Zumba love.”
Those interested in participation in a Zumba class can go to zumba.com, and search on Melissa Kerpel or Julia Kerpel, or click on juliakerpel. zumba.com/ and zumba.com/en-US/profile/melissa-kerpel/17593.