Carlos Fuentes is a flourishing social media star and mentor who is helping inspire others on their own health and fitness journeys.
And when we say star, well, Fuentes has more than 56,000 followers, a number that is growing every day.
Chelsea residents, classmates, and childhood friends will remember him well as the personable and multi-talented member of the Jordan Boys and Girls Club (JBGC), the hard-working and helpful student at CHS (Class of 2009), or the diligent staff member at the Chelsea Collaborative where he worked with administrators Gladys Vega and Roseann Bongiovanni.
Fuentes credited former JGBC Executive Director Josh Kraft for making his visits there a positive and productive experience.
“Josh is definitely a person who helped me,” said Fuentest. “Patricia Manalo was the performing arts director and she was the first one to say to me, ‘it’s okay to put yourself out there and do something different’ “I did ballet, tap, singing, and dancing. She helped me get out my comfort zone and that’s what my current journey has been about.”
Reflecting on his job at the Collaborative, Fuentes said, “Gladys and Rosie are awesome. They gave me my first job. I worked at the Collaborative for five years as an environmental Chelsea organizer.”
One of his childhood highlights was singing at the Zakim Bridge opening ceremonies with superstar Bruce Springsteen.
Fuentes graduated from Wheelock College with a degree in Social Work. While a college junior, he began working at the East Boston YMCA.
Today he is the Teen Program Director at the East Boston YMCA where he oversees relationships with the surrounding middle and high schools and manages the academic credit recovery programs as well as Y teen nights.
In 2016, Fuentes began posting photos of his workouts, attendance at musicals, and his various travels on social media.
“I was doing cardio workouts and then I signed up for personal training at the YMCA,” said Fuentes, who has lost 40 pounds on a three-year fitness program.
Fuentes said one of his transformation photos became an overnight viral sensation, with no less than 800,000 likes overnight.
One of his fans praised his healthy lifestyle and positive attitude, writing, “I believe in you, Carlos.”
Fuentes now posts videos every other day and the demand for more interaction on social media is growing.
“I just recently learned how to swim, so a lot of it is my swimming videos and my working out videos,” said Fuentes, whose father, Jorge Pleitez, is from El Salvador and mother, Suyapa Fuentes, is from Honduras. He has two older brothers, Miguel and Jorge.
Fuentes is part of the LGBT community and he is often sought out for advice by people who consider him an inspiration and a source of support.
James Morton, YMCA of Greater Boston president and CEO lauded Fuentes who is part of a caring, dedicated staff that has made the ‘Y’ a true community resource in East Boston.
“Carlos’ story is truly an inspiration to all,” said Morton, who is an avid runner and fitness advocate himself. “When people join the Y, they are seeking to improve themselves, but in actuality they are also part of creating a better community. The Y helps teens with job training, academic support, and college prep help.”
Ashley Genrich, aquatics director at the East Boston YMCA, taught Fuentes how to swim.
“Carlos is one of hardest workers I’ve ever met in my life,” said Genrich. “He figured it out pretty quickly and was hungry to learn all the different strokes. Now he assists with our swim classes. The kids love him. East Boston is such a family here and Carlos models what it is to be a huge member of the this community and the family. He’s an awesome guy.”
Added Kate Martinez, 17, who works part time in the teen program, “Being at the Y has always felt like a second home because of Carlos. He helps me balance my schoolwork and sports. He’s also given me the opportunity to support other youths with their homework and taking part in ‘Y’ activities.”
Meanwhile, Fuentes is becoming so popular and uplifting across many age groups and lifestyles that he is being approached by clothing companies to promote their products. A local film maker has also reached out to Fuentes for a project.
“I’m trying to see what endorsements are available,” said Fuentes. “The response has been overwhelming. A lot of people on Instagram say they appreciate me being vulnerable. Because of this platform that I have, I am looking to expand my outreach.”
Fuentes said he’s pleased that the East Boston ‘Y’ is attracting members from Chelsea. “It’s great that some of our participants are from Chelsea. I’ve tried to make it known that Chelsea residents are welcomed. My heart has always been Chelsea.”
And Fuentes is happily putting his hometown and the East Boston YMCA on the map through his tremendous following on social media.
With his ability to lead and inspire others, is an entry in to the political arena in his immediate future?
“I’ve thought about it,” he admits. “But not right now.”