If there's one thing Cata Mejia isn't, it's inexperienced in the Zumba world. This 15-year-old girl who lives in Gaithersburg, Md., has been officially been teaching Zumba—and loving it—for four years!
"I don't like Zumba, I love it!" Mejia says. "The reason is simple: It's a great way to exercise while having fun, it's for absolutely everyone, and it's an amazing way to bring people together through something they like...it also has a positive vibe to it."
Becoming an official Zumba instructor on December 9, 2007, at the age of 11, Mejia has been certified as the "Youngest Zumba Instructor in the World" by Guinness World Records.
Mejia first tried Zumba when her mom took her to a class. In fact, her mom was so excited to share the class with her daughter that she wasn't bothered by the fact that the class was an hour drive away.
"As soon as the class started, I fell in love," she says. "All the Latin music and the warm and welcoming environment took me back to my homeland Colombia."
Born in Bogota, Mejia says that although she knew how to dance almost all the Latin rhythms like merengue and salsa, she was "all over the place" during that first class. Despite that though, after just a few songs, the instructor invited her up on stage and Mejia stayed there for the reminder of the class. Totally hooked, Mejia began attending Zumba on every Saturday for a month, and eventually worked up the courage to ask how she could become a Zumba instructor, too. Although Mejia was afraid that she'd be too young, the instructor said that there was no age limit (Since 2007, Zumba now has an age limit of 18 for instructor training. Exceptions can be made to those who are 16 and 17 years old, as long as they have parental consent and involvement).
After getting her Zumba certification at just the age of 11, Mejia couldn't formally "work," so she taught Zumba at birthday parties, family gatherings, and Zumbathons, which are Zumba Marathons that are normally two hours long and raise money for a certain cause. Last year, she helped raise $758 for Japan.
As she started teaching Zumba to the community, others started asking Mejia if she was, in fact, the youngest instructor. After multiple requests, she reached out to the Guinness World Records corporate office, who after almost a year of investigating and research, declared that, yes, Mejia was the youngest Zumba instructor in the world.
With the title, Mejia says she feels empowered to have a positive impact on her community.
"Knowing that I am the youngest not only makes me feel proud, but it also makes me feel that it gives me a bigger opportunity to influence not only my local community but also my global community," she says. "My goal is to influence as many people as I can to live a healthy lifestyle while having fun, to never give up and follow their dreams, and to go above and beyond what they think they can do."
Mejia describes her teaching style as mixed, fun, and exciting. She choreographs her own Zumba routines, incorporates new songs regularly, and involves and encourages her students as much as she can. Overall, her students treat her with respect, she says, though many don't even know how old she is.
"Most people acknowledge that I look young and think that I'm in college or something but are completely shocked when they found out that I became an instructor at the age of 11 and I'm currently 15 and a sophomore in high school," she says. "I've actually had male students flirt and ask me out on dates and then feel completely embarrassed when they find out my age!"
So what's next for this Zumba prodigy? Plenty!
"I have my priorities straight: finish high school, go to college (I'm hoping to go to Georgetown to study International Relations) and see where Zumba takes me!" Mejia says. "I definitely would like to become a Zumba Education Specialist and possibly own my own dance studio...we'll see what the future has in store."
How inspirational! We love how people of all ages are getting into fitness and finding the joy in it! (You saw this piece about the world's oldest yoga instructor, right?) Would you love to take a Zumba class from Mejia? Check her out website with class information here.