In the past 27 years, we have certified over 130,000 health, nutrition and fitness professionals. Each month, we honor one of our outstanding alumni who uses what they have learned to inspire others and make a difference.
Meet our distinguished August alumnus, Stephanie Jenko, A AFPA Certified Health and Wellness Coach.
How did you initially become interested in health and fitness?
I was never really athletic, but in college, I became addicted to trying new things and the idea of self-improvement. I’ve tried food trends and exercise programs, had 100’s of hobbies, and even finished triathlons. (I almost drowned, but this is a story for a different day.) All I knew was that I wanted to be “healthy” and feel good about myself. There has been a long history of heart disease and cancer in my family, among others, and I think I was always looking for a way to “beat the odds”. During the summer of 2017, I switched to a vegan diet. And by “transitional” I mean I watched what health on Netflix and completely turned my life upside down. From there, I really started calling it a whole plant-based diet. The effect you made in my life was almost instant! I felt how this way of eating changed my health and led to other healthy habits, as well as the health of my other family members who jumped on board.
What degree did you choose, and why did you choose AFPA?
I first chose the Holistic Dietitian Certification because I was looking to learn more about whole food nutrition and the way food can protect and heal the body. I didn’t realize how passionate I was about this! I completed it in 2019 and recently completed my certification as a health and wellness coach in order to expand my coaching skills and better serve my clients.
What was your career like before you became certified?
I spent about ten years in early childhood and primary education. Recently, I spent four years as a fifth grade teacher!
What does your profession look like now?
I left teaching in June of 2020 to be able to work full time building my business. I say “corporate” because apart from my coaching practice (where I see clients 1:1 and in small groups), I also own and operate a wellness center and boutique, Wellness in the Village. The center is where I often work, as well as online training. It is also home to two massage therapists and a mental health therapist. studio space offering yoga, meditation, and special events; a local store; the chamber of commerce in our town; and our very own storefront, which houses products for living a healthy lifestyle. I also host the podcast, “Be Good With Steve, the podcast.” There is never a dull moment here!
What are your favorite parts of your career?
My job, my favorite part of what I do is helping women create lifestyle habits that make them feel good! Lots of women (and others) with a history of diet riding and fitness stress, along with their busy schedules, misunderstandings about nutrition, sick family history… it can be very difficult to know what is “right” for you. I love training women by taking control of their health and well-being through education, mental changes, and creating new routines.
Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to host events and talk to larger groups, and that’s something that really shines on me too! I hope to add more of this over time.
How has being certified with the AFPA affected your life?
Earning a degree with AFPA has given me the knowledge and confidence to take my life on a whole new path. It was a catalyst to start my business and start the coaching journey. It still amazes me almost every day that my job is to literally help people live healthier and happier lives. Plus, the way my habits have improved continues to affect my health.
Do you have any customer success stories you would like to share?
I am so grateful to have worked with so many inspiring women over the past two years! Just the other day, someone shared this with me/Instagram:
“It’s totally possible not to love where your body is and to still be happy. I’m proof that you can have goals and still love yourself. I always thought having great teachers was a thing for education…until I met Steve a few years ago at the age of 30.” She was the most influential teacher of adulthood. You don’t have to hate yourself. You can have peace and goals. Thank you for showing me how to silence my inner mean girl.”
That’s why I do what I do. Yes, we improve nutrition through whole plant foods. Yes, we work on balanced eating, regular movement, and stress management tools. However, most of the magic lies in getting women to take care of themselves from a place of self-love rather than fear or restriction. When they start to really take care of themselves, achieving their health goals becomes simpler and more fun!
What advice would you give others to consider becoming certified?
AFPA has many programs, courses, and majors to choose from! They provide a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. Whether you’re looking to start a practice, add a major to an existing career, create content, or improve your health, AFPA can help you. Flexibility and independence in your studies also makes adding courses to your life simple.