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America Voss helping JBS employees develop healthier lifestyles

WORTHINGTON -- America Voss has tried to make a positive impact in the community since she moved to Worthington seven years ago. Whether teaching Zumba classes at the Worthington Area YMCA or working as a health coach in different entities, her g...

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America Voss is shown at her JBS office in Worthington. (Martina Baca / Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - America Voss has tried to make a positive impact in the community since she moved to Worthington seven years ago.

Whether teaching Zumba classes at the Worthington Area YMCA or working as a health coach in different entities, her goal has always been to help people adopt healthy habits.

Voss began working at JBS, Inc. in Worthington as a health coach in January, helping employees with chronic diseases through its pilot program, JBS Strong. Voss works with JBS workers as well as their physicians to make changes that fit individual needs.

Voss said many people feel overwhelmed when asked to make lifestyle changes. As a health coach, she helps them achieve those changes.

“We don’t know what is going on when people are at home, so instead of us saying ‘this is what you have to do,’ you tell me what works for you,” Voss said. “Tell what your goal is, and I am going to help you walk through the journey.

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“We are going to walk side by side. I am not going to walk ahead of you, I am not going to walk behind you - we are just going to work together.”

Voss helps JBS employees with chronic diseases create an action plan to make changes that will have positive health impacts. Her role is to be a source of motivation for employees and anybody who walks into her office.

She noted that a key element of changing unhealthy habits is developing a belief that change is, in fact, possible.

“We do a lot of motivational interviewing, so lifting the people up makes a difference,” Voss said. “Digging through what do you like to do … and helping them believe in themselves and making sure that  “I want do it, and I can do it.’”

Motivating people is not only an important part of making any change, but it’s also the most challenging component of the job for Voss.

“The biggest challenge is changing people’s mentality that it’s possible,” she said. “Maybe it’s not going to happen every day, but realizing the impact that we are having with the family when we do those changes.”

Voss said she doesn’t only try to be a positive influence with words, but with actions. She always carries around her water bottle and a pair of tennis shoes under her office desk.

“When I am done with work or when I have those five minutes, I put my tennis shoes on and I go and walk around or I find the steps. ... I know there are 35 steps, and I do it up to 10 times,” Voss said. “I want to set an example so I can inspire people.”

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When people achieve desired change, there’s more than just physical improvements, Voss noted. Confidence is boosted, too.

“The better you feel about everything, the easier it will be going through life,” she said.

Voss’s involvement with the improvement of people’s lives is nothing new. Before coming to Worthington seven years ago, she lived in California and worked as an aerobics instructor. While in town, Voss taught Zumba and was also employed by Sanford.

“I realize that music is a therapy and dancing helps many people who are going through many issues,” Voss said. “For that moment of the day, during that class time, you don’t think about anything else. … I don’t even want to think that my name is America. I just want to dance, have fun and enjoy what I am doing.”

Voss said moving from California to Worthington was a difficult change since she was accustomed to the fast pace of a big city. She learned, though, that even though she wasn’t able to find as many restaurants or shopping malls in Worthington, she did discover something more valuable.

“One of the things I didn’t get in California because it was so busy is the quality time you can get with people here,” Voss said. “Having been in the United States for 20 years, I haven’t had the friends that I have now. We care about each other and we love each other, and I don't think I could get those friendships over there because of the rush of going so fast.”

She noted that one of the most rewarding parts of her job has been not only changing an individual's life, but also the effect the change has on that individual’s family and friends.

As a native of El Salvador, Voss said she felt a need to work a little bit harder to fight some of the stereotypes about Hispanics that she perceived some people have in town.

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“I try to be involved in as much as I can with the positives of the community because I felt the need of proving that we are hard workers, we are smart people and we can do a lot for this country,” Voss said.

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