Inspired by Humans of New York, where Brandon Stanton shares short stories of hundreds of New Yorkers, we went on a quest to find students, alumni, faculty and staff within the CASE community who make us see the world in a different light. This is one in a series we’ve titled, Humans of CASE.
John Morales made a commitment to himself in 2013 after reading Frankenstein.
“If you read the book, you find out that Frankenstien wasn’t really a bad guy,” Morales said. “When Dr. Frankenstein [tried] to kill his creation it was because he didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but I made a commitment to myself [to start] school, training people and not to be scared of what happens because if you’re scared to take the opportunity, you’ll never reach the dream.”
Morales considers himself a ‘project.’ He had a low GPA in high school. He didn’t know what tomorrow looked like, but he knew he had to start somewhere. He enrolled at Miami-Dade College to study kinesiology and exercise science. He took it a step further when he also started his own company, InVivo Strength Conditioning.
“InVivo stands for the study of inside a living organism,” he said. “I want to build you up without changing your environment.”
It started on Sunday mornings. Morales would take some friends to Tropical Park and run a workout. Soon, friends brought friends, friends’ friends brought clients. 10 became 20. 20 became 30. 30 became 40. Now almost every Sunday Morales runs a free strength conditioning workout.
“Strength conditioning is when you can have three, four, five people at the same time, but still be intentional,” Morales said. “I can train at the same time even if one is trying to lose weight or gain weight because it’s about the structure.”
What does the rest of his week look like? 4:30 a.m. wake up calls to start his day of training clients of all ages. Morales has seen clients literally grow up in front of his eyes.
“I have people who were 15 when I started and are now turning 21. That’s crazy to me.”
InVivo is not the only thing that has flourished since 2013. Morales went on to graduate Miami-Dade College with an Associate’s Degree in 2016. He promised his mom he would finish his Bachelor’s degree so he immediately saw FIU as the perfect fit to continue his education.
“I became that student who sat in the front and stayed until I got things right. The professors are very understanding of your goals, I always liked that because I felt they would help me shift my focus.”
During office hours, Morales mentioned to Dr. Arturo Leyva, a faculty member in the Teaching and Learning department, that he was potentially interested in pursuing his masters. After graduation, Dr. Leyva helped Morales secure a teaching assistantship in the MS in Kinesiology and Exercise Science program.
“I was thinking of going out of state or going down the street,” Morales said. “A lot of people say ‘Oh my next opportunity I’m going to kill it.’ But your next opportunity is the one you’re at right now. When Dr. Leyva presented that to me, I was like let’s go, let’s do it.”
During his time at FIU, Morales led the Sports Science Club and helped construct the Kinesiology lab located at the Biscayne Bay Campus.
“We did the outline, just me and my buddy Sergio, and we built the whole thing, little by little, piece by piece. Now Kinesiology students can use it and professors use it for practical stuff like how to lift weights.”
Equally as important to Morales is how others perceive him.
“I always speak about legacy. I want people to remember me and think wow that guy did a lot for other people. I always say you get more out of giving than receiving.”
At the Spring 2019 commencement ceremony, Morales crossed the stage with his Master’s degree.
“I told my mom, ‘Hey you can have my bachelor’s that’s yours, but my master’s… this one is for me.’ From the kid that went from a really low GPA to over a 3.0, this is valuable to me. My proudest accomplishment.”