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Poland fitness instructor lives her life in motion

Jen D’Agati uses weights during her strength building class at Shepherd of the Valley in Liberty.

LIBERTY — Jen D’Agati loves to be active.

Although she was born in Youngstown, her dad’s career required relocation to Colorado when she was 3. It was there that she discovered outdoor sports such as skiing.

“I started skiing when I was 10. I was on the ski team and I did downhill ski racing and I did a little bit of travel with that,” D’Agati said.

After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in Colorado, she returned to the Mahoning Valley.

“I moved back in the 1970s. My mother and father were from here. My father had a heart attack and he wanted to be closer to family. We moved to Girard. I’m glad they did because I’m here now,” D’Agati said.

The area had changed a lot since her parents lived here, and D’Agati moved to a completely different climate and culture compared to where she was raised.

“My parents told us about how robust the area was at one point. And when we moved back here is when everything was starting to close down. So, it wasn’t so robust anymore. It was a bit of a culture shock,” she said.

Because of the fluctuating weather in Ohio, the ski season was much shorter here than in Colorado. So, she discovered activities that could be enjoyed indoors or outdoors, such as aerobics, tennis, hiking and swimming.

“When I met my husband, Joe, he was a tennis player. I really got into tennis and I also love to go running,” she said.

Enrolling at Youngstown State University, she majored in political science.

“I went for three years, but I quit because I wanted to do fitness stuff. I started going to the gym and I went to Columbus to be certified as a step aerobics instructor when that started,” she said.

D’Agati then opened Step Up Fitness, her own fitness / aerobics studio in Warren in 1980.

“I think I was one of the only people teaching step aerobics in the area at the time,” she recalled.

Her classes were successful right from the beginning.

“I would have 50 to 60 people in a class,” she said.

Besides running the studio, D’Agati, her daughter and husband were very involved with playing tennis.

“Tennis consumed our years. Sarah played in tournaments. Joe played in tournaments. They played in tournaments together. I played in tournaments,” she said.

D’Agati closed her studio in 1995, not long before her husband closed his dental office and retired from that profession. Together, they relocated to the west coast.

“After Joe retired, we moved to California for 10 years and we were in Arizona for a bit. I didn’t like living in Arizona, so we went back to California. Sarah was in college there and we had a house there, so it was an easy transition,” D’Agati said.

Like her move back to Ohio after high school, it was the lure of family that led her to return to the area.

“When we came back here, we were having grandchildren. Our kids are back here. Sarah lives here with her husband and two children and (our son) Tony lives in Florida,” D’Agati said.

Upon her return, she was not sure what she wanted to do, but knew it would be fitness-related.

“I was just kind of floating around doing some classes here and there, and then someone gave my name to the activities director at Shepherd of the Valley. I did a class for them and then I just started doing another one and another one and another one,” she said.

D’Agati teaches residents of the senior living facility in Liberty and in Howland of various physical levels. Her classes include chair yoga, strengthening classes and drum exercises.

“I also teach a balance class. It’s called Movin and Groovin. It’s a range of motion class, but it’s kind of like a dance range of motion in the chair,” she said.

In the last 10 years, she took up tap dancing and performed with two other women in a “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” number during Warren SCOPE’s Veterans Day pin Ceremony.

“I always wanted to learn to tap dance, so when I returned I did. I was in a senior dance group but I was not happy with it. So, I prayed about it. I prayed really hard and I said, ‘What is my purpose? What am I supposed to do?’ I always knew it could be bigger and better than it was,” she said.

Being around seniors while teaching her classes or performing at senior events made her aware of a lack of community awareness about local seniors.

“I got confirmation of what I was asking for and it was to have this talent show for our seniors because I believed that we needed to open that up and we needed to bring more talented seniors to the stage and this was my chance to do that,” D’Agati said.

She started the nonprofit Senior Showcase with a mission statement “to create a dynamic theater experience for our audience and for all our senior participants spotlighting their experiences and talents from the prime of their lives.”

In a year’s time, D’Agati had auditions, rehearsals and a full production that took place on Jan. 6. It featured senior comedians, dancers, musicians and an Elvis impersonator from the three counties and western Pennsylvania. She is president of Senior Showcase and produced and directed the show.

“We originally thought the show was going to take place at Warren SCOPE, but after five or six months of rehearsals, we realized the show was getting bigger and bigger and that we would need a larger space,” D’Agati said. “My husband asked where I would like to have the show. I said, ‘I would love to have it at the Robins Theatre (in Warren) but that might be dreaming too big.’ Ken Haidaris from the Robins Theatre contacted me and we had it there,” she said.

D’Agati is already having auditions for next year’s senior showcase, continuing to teach her exercise classes and planning for an upcoming senior dance class studio. She continues to be active in numerous creative endeavors and has accomplished fitness goals both on a personal level and as an instructor.

To suggest a Saturday profile, contact Metro Editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com or Features Editor Ashley Fox at afox@tribtoday.com.

Have an interesting story? Contact the newsroom by email at news@vindy.com Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday

Have an interesting story? Contact the newsroom by email at news@tribtoday.com Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday

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