WEST WINDSOR, N.J. – The transition of education instruction to online and remote platforms has been challenging for students and instructors alike, but particularly for traditional hands-on instruction, like physical fitness.  But that hasn’t stopped one Mercer County Community College (MCCC) professor from helping his students when they need it most.

John Kalinowski, Associate Professor for Health and Physical Education (HPE) at Mercer, made sure that all of his students were able to make good on a learning opportunity that could shape the future of their careers.

Kalinowski personally funded each of his students to attend the National High School Strength Coaches Association regional conference, a day-long health and fitness symposium that was reformatted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With sessions focusing on program design, competitions, and strength and conditioning technology, the conference is geared toward professionals or those aspiring to work in the health and fitness field.

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 Kalinowski had been urging his students to attend the conference in the run up to the nation’s shut down. According to MCCC Dean of Health Professions Kevin Duffy, Kalinowski decided to support all 10 of his HPE 242 students due to the financial repercussions of the shutdown.

“This was truly a great gesture on his part to ensure students continue to receive quality education and the experiences that will help propel them in the future,” Duffy said.

Let Kalinowski tell it and he didn’t give his gesture a second thought.

“Any one of my colleagues would've done it,” Kalinowski said. “Teachers and coaches do what they do because they want to create opportunities for others; they want to make a difference. They want to stoke passions, and they want to see people maximize their potential.”

Kalinowski is an athletic performance coach, personal trainer and consultant with more than 20 years of experience. He is a lifelong athlete, participating in baseball, basketball, football and gymnastics throughout his life.

His experience was immediately influential at MCCC, where Kalinowski helped establish the Exercise Science degree program in 2005. Currently, he sits on the MCCC Athletics Committee, which is currently working to create an inaugural class for the Mercer Athletics Hall of Fame.

But none of Kalinowski’s personal successes removed his focus on community. Coming from a “blue collar” family meant Kalinowski is acutely aware of the impact financial swings can have on every aspect of life, including education.

“That environment taught me the value of appreciating what you have, the value of community, the value of giving back, and the value of making a difference,” Kalinowski said.