CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — An international competition introduced Kevin Burnside to the world of gymnastics.
“I saw the 1992 Olympics [as a kid in Chicago] and got hooked,” he says. “The 1996 Olympics confirmed that idea.”
His interest in gymnastics led to lessons as a child, which he continued in high school. He also jumped right in to a number of other activities, including one that changed the trajectory of his life.
“I was a member in JROTC, I was in marching band, I ran track,” he says, “but most of all I was in a dance club at school.”
Eventually Kevin became the main choreographer for the club, which led to what he calls “an obsession.” He came to the University of Illinois to major in dance and started a dance team that competed in events at the national level. He didn’t forget his first love of gymnastics, though.
“My experience allowed me to get a part-time job as a gymnastics coach,” Kevin says. “I continued coaching part-time in college, moving up to coach higher-level kids.”
His personal experience with the sport, the time he spent coaching and the relationships he developed with local families brought him to an important decision.
“I decided to open a gymnastics club,” he says.
Now in its 15th year in Champaign, the I-Power School of Gymnastics offers classes for children as young as 18 months old and continues through competitive-level gymnastics. Younger students also have the opportunity to join the gym’s preschool prep program called Gym-N-Learn, which adds language and listening, math, science, and art, and sensory and fine motor skill development to its gymnastics during the week.
“We like to think of I-Power as a children’s structured activity center,” Kevin says.
The gym also hosts birthday parties and camps, the latter of which were crucial when schools went virtual because of the pandemic and kids needed academic help.
Kevin’s dedication to competitive gymnastics also reverberates through the gym.
“[It] allows me to share my passions with the kids I teach,” he says.
He has the satisfaction of using those passions to help his students achieve their personal goals.
“We focus many hours of our training on dance technique and artistic presentation,” he says. “Since 2007, I-Power has produced over 30 state champions.”
And Kevin himself continues to dance, following his heart in a variety of opportunities.
“I am a contracted soloist with the Champaign Urbana Ballet Company since 2012, and I was recently certified with Romana’s Pilates International so I’m a part-time instructor,” he says.
That young boy who watched the Olympics for the first time 30 years ago now gets to fulfill his own dreams on a daily basis.
“I couldn’t imagine another job,” he says.
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