Living proofBy Patty Wellborn
Pamela St. Amour is making hearts happy with her thriving business
|Pamela St. Amour juggles a lot. The busy entrepreneur prepared for her career thorugh kinesiology|
and business studies at UFV.
Do yourself a favour. If you think you don’t have time to exercise, or you don’t have time to finish that degree, don’t tell Pamela St. Amour (BKin ’03).
Pamela will set you straight. There is always time, she says, to do the things you want to do, especially when it comes to physical fitness and a higher education. That’s her mantra and Pamela is living proof that goals are achievable, no matter how high the climb.
Pamela, now 41, went back to school 12 years ago. She had recently moved to B.C. from New Brunswick and was raising a five-year-old son. At one point she was holding down three minimum-wage jobs and realized her pattern of exhaustion was getting her nowhere. Not knowing what she really wanted to do for a living, Pamela took some continuing studies courses and soon got a job as a medical office assistant.
She liked the idea of this new career and thought she was set for life. But the shine wore off.
She decided it wasn’t the career for her and went back to waitressing. “I needed to be on my feet, plus I made more money waitressing.”
But waitressing isn’t what this dynamic lady wanted to do for a long-term living and she again decided to go back to school.
She was now 30, had recently moved to Abbotsford, and started taking biology upgrading at what was then UCFV. She laughs as she remembers the age difference between her and her young classmates.
“I liked being in school with younger people. It brings a lot of energy into the class and I thrived on that.”
And thrive she did. Pamela had at last found something she could sink her teeth into. She “devoured” the courses, and earned a Fitness and Exercise Management certificate. Then she used UFV’s laddering system to come back to earn her diploma, but wanted more. In June 2004, she earned her Bachelor of Kinesiology degree with a fitness professional option and with a business minor in human resources.
“I was a hungry, voracious student,” she says with a smile. “Once I started learning, it was almost like an obsession with me. I couldn’t stop.”
While completing her degree, Pamela, who had finally settled in Mission, also started her business, called Happy Heart Fitness and Education. She taught some basic fitness classes, and some computing courses. Registered with the B.C. Recreation and Parks Association to teach fitness trainers and leaders, she won the contract to be the weight room supervisor at the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.
As the supervisor, she maintained the fitness area and weight machines, did orientations with new members, and helped people by creating individualized weight training programs. Her job doubled when the company then took over the fitness area at the Pitt Meadows Family Recreation Centre. Soon she was hiring and training staff and now, between the two gyms, the Leisure Centre’s childcare activity room, and her Fitness Instructor training series, through which she teaches people to become fitness instructors or personal trainers, she employs about 22 people.
Pamela’s employees provide supervision, fitness classes, and health education to members of the two facilities, and she continues to provide up-to-date health and fitness information through her fitness leadership courses, personal training, and seminars. And yes, she agrees, the days are busy and long. “I never sleep,” she laughs. “I’m working full out, from the get-go, every single day. But I am also using my education. I am using every single part of my kinesiology degree and every day I use my human resources knowledge.”
Pamela loves to promote physical activity for people of all ages. She is cognizant of aging baby-boomers and has programs for seniors to help keep them active as they age. By being involved with families through child care, fitness programs, and the gym, Pamela spreads her enthusiasm and passion for active lifestyles to people of all ages. She is also giving back to UFV by helping with practicum and co-op placements for kinesiology students, and has hired some UFV grads to work with her.
“Most of my students come from UFV, and I admit that I’m partial to the university,” she says with a shrug. “But I’m looking for students with hands-on experience and that’s what I like about UFV’s program. I have worked with students from other universities, but I haven’t been that impressed I think the instructors at UFV, and the students’ access to those instructors, make them really well-rounded.”
Pamela is proud of what she has accomplished, noting she’s the first of nine children in her family to earn a degree. But she’s not done yet. One day, when she finds the time, she’ll return to school to work on her master’s degree and perhaps even earn a PhD one day.
Although a natural self-starter, she credits UFV for helping her find the career that fills her days, and nights, and fulfills her happy heart. Making an impact in people’s fitness is one thing, but helping people put food on the table and provide for their families, is truly her reward. “I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and I thank UFV for that,” she says. “Without my degree I wouldn’t be able to provide jobs for my staff. I have found my niche and I couldn’t be happier.”