A screenshot of a Twitter conversation between teacher Helen Ihde and Retro Fitness CEO Eric Casaburi.
FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP – All it took was an episode of “Undercover Boss” for Freehold Township High School’s special education Workplace Training Program to know they wanted the CEO of Retro Fitness to visit their class.
So teacher Helen Ihde reached out to CEO Eric Casaburi on Twitter and less than a month later, he was standing in front of the 13-member class, which is aimed at transitioning eligible students from the classroom to the workplace.
Casaburi, a Colts Neck resident, shared his own job experiences, discussed work ethic and answered any questions at his Monday visit to the high school.
“What you learn when you’re in the field is so valuable. You can’t learn it sometimes in a textbook,” said Casaburi, adding he went to college but did not finish.
Living in Marlboro at age 11, Casaburi obtained a work permit and was employed by a landscaper. He told the students that at that job he learned about work ethic and its importance.
“You will never forget your very first job,” he said.
One of the students in the program, 21-year-old Jack Anderson, interns at the Retro Fitness location in Freehold and has secured a job there starting in July.
Less than 10 minutes into the questioning, students wanted to know more about Casaburi’s “Undercover Boss” experience. He said they visited six gyms, three of which aired on TV, and all of the footage was edited, but nothing was staged.
The students were most interested about the woman who was fired after the show.
“I said I’m either going to fire her now or I’m done for the day,” Casaburi said he told the producers three hours into filming that day.
The producers made a deal with him that he could do what he wanted, as long as they were able to film it. The discussion about the show led students to question Casaburi about contracts, firing employees and how Retro Fitness was started.
“It was a great learning lesson for us in class because they really got to see what not to do as an employee,” Ihde told Casaburi.
Casaburi said his experience going undercover was rewarding, allowing him to see first hand what is going on in his gyms.
Using a quote from author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, Casaburi stressed the importance of working: “Money is not the most important thing in the world but it rates pretty close to oxygen when it comes to survival.” But he told the students it’s important to enjoy your job.
“Life is entirely too short to truly not to love what you’re doing every day,” said Casaburi, encouraging students to find something they are passionate about for their jobs. “When you wake up in the morning you want to run to where you’re going, not crawl back in bed.”
The school was awarded a grant through the Workforce Investment Board, which allows them to pay the students during their internships. The 18 to 21-year-old students learn life skills in the course, in addition to functional academics and vocal assessment courses to help transition them into the workforce.
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“Anytime I can do something that’s into the community and related, and it’s close to home which is always dear to my heart,” Casaburi said about speaking to the students. “What these teachers and student are doing is outstanding.”
Casaburi was optimistic about the program’s partnership with Retro Fitness growing.
“Having it successfully implemented in one gym – proof is in the pudding,” he said, adding if other students are interested in fitness he wants to work with the school to get them in other gyms.
Five students are graduating the program this year, and three have secured jobs while one other is starting at TCNJ. Next year, the program will nearly double with 24 students.