Adversity is a lifelong companion to Jessie Casas. Born in the South Side of Chicago, he’s lived in the Windy City, Hammond, Whiting, and now Valparaiso. As a kid, teen, and young adult, Casas struggled to get by, every day posed a new challenge. Today, he’s a successful personal trainer and hard worker with a beautiful family, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for challenge in his life – after all, adversity helped shape him into the person he is now.
Casas is definitely not shy discussing his life’s big turnaround. Growing up, he had a big problem with substance abuse. This became a part of his life that, for a time, he felt he couldn’t escape. The income from selling kept him alive from day to day.
“As a young man, I grew up in the streets selling drug, living day to day,” said Casas. “I was just trying to survive, but I’ve turned that life around. Now I’ve got a full family, five kids, I’m married, and we just bought a house. I went from being a drug addict and living day to day, to being a bodybuilder and being a positive influence to people that follow me.”
He currently holds down two jobs, and wakes up at 4 am just about every day. One is at Merit Steel, and the other is his personal coaching team called Bold Strength Fitness. If you asked him which he was most passionate about, the answer would be simple: his fitness training. His own personal fitness journey played a large role in turning his life around, and having a similar positive influence on others is something he deeply values.
“I started lifting weights and I got into fitness and pursued bodybuilding,” said Casas. “Once I got into bodybuilding and saw how awesome it was for me to change my life, I was like, ‘Man, if I could help other people do this, that’d be even better,’ and that’s where that drive kicked off and how I started pursuing training as a career.”
It’s not just through fitness that Casas seeks to help others, it’s foundational to him. One ongoing project is an anti-bullying initiative or event that he hopes to start. If he wasn’t doing all he could to better the lives of others – Casas thinks that a gap would open in his heart.
“It fills a hole in me,” he explained. “For me, helping people is my thing. I love to see people live healthier.”
With two jobs and five kids, raising a family is no easy feat, but Casas is finding that Valparaiso is the perfect place to do it. Though they are four-year residents, the Casas family just bought a new house after coming to love the community.
“The environment and sense of community are great,” said Casas. “If you walk around in downtown Valpo, that’s what it’s all about. That community, having people together being comfortable, and having so many people for whom health is a big priority tells me a lot about it. That’s what I love about it, aside from the awesome schools.”
At the end of the day, everything comes back to family for him. Spending time with them, whether it be going out on a trip to the movies or staying in for pizza, nothing beats a night with the wife and kids for Casas.
“We love movies, and pizza nights are really big for us,” he said. “That’s our bonding time. Even if we can’t go out to the theater, we pick something up from Redbox or get something online then just hangout, eat snacks, and play games.”
Role models like Casas are proof that while adversity can beat you down, with the right attitude, work ethic, and willpower, you can channel that struggle into success and then share that strength with others.
“I’m a big fan of leading by example,” said Casas. “If I’m trying to help people implement a new lifestyle in their own lives, I have to be accountable to myself.”