A lot of students at York High School know as a social studies teacher. But he also spends his summers motivating and inspiring hundreds of kids who are not quite in high school yet, at his annual Championship Training Academy in Elmhurst.
This year's six-week running camp was held in July for kids entering fifth through 12th grades. The kids work on distance and speed training, while emphasizing the importance of athletic and character development.
Kern, 43, has dedicated much of his life to running, including serving as assistant coach for 10 years for the York Dukes boys cross country and boys track teams. And, he is an avid runner, himself, having won seven masters championships and even a World Master's championship in his age group in Europe in 2009.
His summer training academies are inspiring the kids that participate in them, but his ability to motivate extends to members of his training crew, as well.
Ashley Lucas was an intern at the July camp this year. When the camp debuted in 2009, there were 79 runners. This year's camp drew 263 kids from 16 cities, said Lucas, a student at Lewis University.
Lucas will graduate from Lewis in December with a degree in sports management and a minor in athletic coaching. She also was on the women's cross country and track teams and is planning to pursue a master's degree in kinesiology.
"Charlie has been an amazing inspiration to me, both as an athlete as well as someone who desires to coach in the future," she said. "My dream is to coach at the collegiate level, and Charlie is definitely someone I model my coaching after."
So, what was it like working with Kern and helping these young runners?
"His attitude of positivity and encouragement is contagious and inspiring and I only hope that I can have half of the impact on my future athletes that he has had on his," she said. "The main thing about Charlie is not only does he teach you lessons about becoming a better runner but he teaches you lessons on becoming a better person and how to lead a better life."
Lucas said she was not only inspired by Kern, but also by the kids in the running camp.
"As I set out on my internship with CK Running’s Championship Training Academy, I knew I wanted to be the best inspiration I could be to the individuals I would be working with. But I was not ready for how much of an inspiration the kids would actually be to me," she said.
Kids in the six-week camp trained together and formed a camaraderie with one another, while learning from some of the best runners in the area.
"Our mission statement is Changing Lives One Mile At A Time, and we try each and every day to make sure that that statement is being fulfilled," Lucas said. "This can be as simple as being the encouragement the kids need in order to complete a workout, or as big as forming a special bond with the kids that will last (after the camp is over)."
It went beyond helping the kids become better runners, she said.
"It was more about helping them become the best person they can be," she said. "The lessons they learn from running, from their peers, and their coaches will translate to other aspects of their lives.
"Learning how to deal with setbacks or success will teach them discipline that they can apply to their everyday life, not just in the running world."
Coaches, for example, helped teach them to set short- and long-term goals and time management skills.
"Time management is crucial if one wants to be successful in anything they do," Lucas said. "This is an essential skill for kids to be taught at an early age so that they can start applying it to their life right away."
And, in turn, the lessons the kids learned can be passed on to other kids.
"These kids will continue to inspire individuals without even realizing they are doing so," Lucas said. "It might be one of the fifth-graders with their 'I can do it' attitude or the 12th-grader inspiring the younger kids just by saying, 'Good job, keep it up!' and showing that they care."