Meet The Team
Founder & Executive Director
Ryan is a Charlotte, NC native who has served in the fitness industry since 2015. He currently holds an Autism Exercise Specialist Certification, AFAA Group Exercise Certification, is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and is current on CPR/AED certification since 2005.
Ryan's passion for working with the special needs population began in 2019. Ryan has lead large classes for Autism After 18 and smaller classes with The Exceptional Foundation of Charlotte; as well as small group and personal training for those with special needs. He has volunteered for Camp Blue Skies GA and Camp S.O.A.R in Charlotte, NC with the Jewish Community Center, as well as other outings such as bowling events, and corn hole tournaments.
Board Chairman & Fitness Instructor
Jim has traveled all over the country before making Charlotte his home. Originally serving in the US Navy and getting a degree as a civil engineer before becoming an entrepreneur and then becoming a fitness professional. Jim has over 10 years of experience working with special needs teens and adults in both group and private settings. He has worked with many organizations like Camp Blue Skies Foundation and NC Special Olympics at Camp Soar as a program instructor. Jim is also the Camp Director for Camp Blue Skies Foundation. Jim has his own private personal training practice working where he also specializes in working with individuals who are recovering stroke victims. On top of teaching classes and working for Camp Blue Skies, Jim is currently serving as the head chairman on our Board of Directors.
Cheryl is a Certified Personal Trainer, CPR certified and Nutrition Coach with NASM. She has worked as a special education teacher’s assistant with Union County Public schools for over 9 years. Prior to relocating from New Jersey she was a woman wearing many hats. She taught children with autism and transitioned to start her own daycare center, which provided service for children with special needs.
Her heart for the special needs community is beyond words. As a daughter of a mother with intellectual disabilities, she grew to learn and love this population as if they were her own family members. She has a passion for coaching track and cross country as well.
Fitness/Dance Instructor & Adaptive Fitness
Lareka is a Pulmonary Embolism Survivor who lost over 60 pounds during her fitness journey. While it was challenging she found resources, tools and motivations that has kept her on the path of healthier and happier living. She brings years of fitness experience including dancing, boxing conditioning and pre & post-natal corrective exercise focus. This former NBA team dancer brings high energy, smiles and cheering to each and every class.
Fitness Instructor & Adaptive Fitness
Lenora is from a small town here in North Carolina. She brings in over 20 years of work experience with the Special Needs population. She has worked for a number of years at a residential facility for the Special Needs, where she served in many different roles from supervising staff to writing and implementing programs to improve or enhance the independent and social skills of the residents there.
Lenora a Certified Personal Trainer with ISSA and is continuing her education with different certifications to help her in her love as a fitness professional.
Lenora also has a very deep love and passion for the Elderly community. She currently serves them through her in-home private care company.
Julia's professional career didn't start out in fitness. She discovered POUND as an exciting weekly outlet for stress while working as a speech-language pathologist in a fast paced pediatric therapy office in Los Angeles. Years later, after moving to Charlotte, she discovered that the closest POUND class was 45 min away. She knew POUND needed to return to her life, but she never imagined that her journey would swing open so many doors that would lead to teaching POUND. Through an incredible series of events and interactions, Julia re-imagined a new life balance and accepted the invitation to become a POUND Pro. The common threads that knit together her two professional passions and motherhood, continue to be uncovered and demonstrate the interconnectedness of our stories and purposes in life. POUND aspires to change minds before bodies and uses beat and alternative movements to launch people to new heights of self worth, happiness, and human connection. Join Julia in class and release the inner rockstar within YOU!
A native of Chester, SC, Jason has played a role with RyzAb0ve Fitness from the beginning through volunteering with events and helping out with classes. He has a passion for encouraging others to see the best in themselves. He is currently engaged in retaining his certification in personal training through NASM.
In his Professional career he spent 10 years as a Tattoo Artist, also owninig his own Tattoo Shop for more than 2 years. Jason loves spending time with his wife Beth and their kids Brandon, Kendra and Sierrah. Jason enjoys challenging himself by working out and competing in Spartan Races. He is also a Painter who enjoys doing abstract paintings and also volunteers regularly at his church.
& Adaptive Fitness
Rachel has over 20 years working with the special needs community in variety of different roles and is currently the Program Director for Special Olympics Mecklenburg County. Rachel is 200-hr registered yoga teacher and is certified in accessible yoga and chair yoga.
In her professional career, she has spent a decade in Washington, D.C. working as an analyst for various federal government entities, including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies from New York University and a master’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C.
Rachel also volunteers with the Exceptional Yoga Program, Gigi’s Playhouse, and Pawsitive Dog Rescue NC. When not on her yoga mat, Rachel enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking or driving really far out of the way to find antiques. She currently lives in Matthews with her husband, two rescue dogs, and three cats.
Our Secretary & Board of Directors
Ashley Anderson is the secretary for RyzAb0ve Fitness. Ashley has a passion for supporting individuals with intellectual disabilities in the community and in everything that she is involved with. She has worked in this field for over 15 years in various roles. As her full time job, Ashley is a special education teacher with 10 years of experience supporting students with extensive support needs. She is also a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte working towards her PhD in special education. Additionally, Ashley serves as the local coordinator for Special Olympics Gaston County where she runs and coordinates programs and events for athletes with intellectual disabilities year-round. She participates in several professional organizations, such as the North Carolina Council for Exceptional Children, and the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities are advocated for. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with my family and friends, playing with her dog, participating in sports and outdoor activities, baking, and crafting.
Amanda is currently the Senior Program Director of Athletics, Aquatics & Arts at the James J. Harris YMCA in the YMCA of Greater Charlotte Association. After graduating from East Carolina University with a Bachelors in Psychology, Amanda began working for the YMCA, where she fell in love with community building, making an impact, and serving others! Over a decade later Amanda is still serving the community and individuals through programs and outreach opportunities in our local non-profit network. In her spare time she is an athlete for the Tri It For Life program, an outdoor enthusiast, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a friend, and a graduate student at the Gonzaga University School of Leadership Studies. She hopes to bring her enthusiasm, passion, and affinity to connect others to the RyzAb0ve Fitness organization.
Amy is an educator who has taught in special needs classrooms in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and even Australia. She returned to the Charlotte area in 2006 to teach at the newly started Philips Academy where she is now the Program Director. Amy has a passion for reaching students with diverse needs and leading them in their transition to "real life.”
A mom of four, Lauren is no stranger to the special needs community. Lauren’s youngest son has dyspraxia and developmental delays, however Lauren has an older brother who is autistic. As Lauren puts it, ‘Her world’s been enriched by the many experiences she’s had as a special needs sibling which have not only shaped her personal perspective and made it unique, but also established the groundwork for her journey as a parent”. Originally from New Jersey, Lauren and her family relocated to Charlotte 15 years ago and have never looked back. Locally, she is known as “Russell’s Sister” as she supports all of Russell’s personal endeavors.
Lauren is the lead commercial contract negotiator for a SaaS organization and enjoys performing in Opera Carolina. On the weekends Lauren can be found trying new recipes in her kitchen or hanging in her backyard with family enjoying the Carolina weather.
Feeling extremely blessed to be a part of the RyzAb0ve organization Lauren believes that serving as a board member will afford her the opportunity to further enhance local partnerships and raise awareness of our diverse community.
Margaret is passionate about the special needs community! Being the parent of an adult with a disability has led her down a path that is rewarding, challenging, and fun. In her role as Transition Coordinator at A Special Needs Plan, Inc., she guides families with children with special needs through the challenging transition to adulthood, and provides valuable resources pertaining to adult life. Margaret is also Vice President of Indie Tree, a project that plans on building affordable, safe and sustainable apartment-style living for adults with disabilities. She is involved with two Special Olympic teams which is her favorite way to spend time. Margaret is married and has a daughter living in Chicago.
Philip McGinnis is an entrepreneur, digital community engagement strategist, and technology enthusiast with a passion for creating new opportunities. Philip is a lifelong resident of North Carolina and is proud of it. He enjoys spending time with his family, exploring the outdoors, reading books, and playing basketball.
Phil has previously worked with travel and tourism companies locally as well as nationally to promote destinations, attractions, and outdoor recreation. In addition, Philip has a keen interest in virtual reality, blockchain, and other emerging technologies that could create huge opportunities for new businesses in the future. During his marketing and consulting career, Philip has worked with business leaders, local governments and nonprofits to achieve their goals for growth and developing better relationships with their customers, constituents and stakeholders.
Rachel has over 20 years experience working with people with intellectual disabilties in variety of different roles and is currently the Program Director for Special Olympics Mecklenburg County. Previously she worked as an analyst for the federal government at various federal government entities, including the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C.
Rachel is 200-hr registered yoga teacher and is certified in accessible yoga and chair yoga— so you may see her teaching one of our yoga classes! Rachel also volunteers with the Exceptional Yoga Program, Gigi’s Playhouse, and Pawsitive Dog Rescue NC. When not on her yoga mat, Rachel enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking or driving really far out of the way to find antiques. She currently lives in Matthews with her husband, two rescue dogs, and three cats.