“It’s diverse,” Gonzalez said. “When you walk in the gym, you’ll see white people, Hispanic people, Native Americans and black people. But you’re going to see mostly black people—and I think that’s a message in and of itself.”
Just north of downtown Omaha lies one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.
Buildings once bustling with people, thriving with African-American culture and glowing with life, slowly deteriorate into the ground with age.
For some residents, the neighborhood marks the birthplace of racism in the city. Lynching’s, race riots, segregation and police brutality from the 1920s through the 1970s have left an indelible mark that can never be erased.
This story begins in North Omaha—the place where civil rights leader Malcolm X, former University of Nebraska-Lincoln football player and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers and actress Gabrielle Union were all brought into this world.
Similar to the three, Treven Coleman’s upbringing in north Omaha was anything but easy, and it shaped him into the man he is today.
“I was bad,” Coleman said. “I was a bad kid. My childhood was filled with a lot of mistakes. I didn’t listen to anyone back then that was older than me.”
During high school, Coleman was defiant. However, he did have one thing going for him—he was athletic.
He wasn’t the tallest by any means. Coleman was about 5-foot-8 but was quick on his feet, explosive and had unbelievable core strength. His mentality—even stronger.
Coleman was 8 years old when he first stepped inside a boxing ring. It wasn’t his first time in the gym. He’d been going since he was 4 years old. His father was a professional boxer and would let his son tag along when he went to the gym to train.
“Boxing was second nature to me,” Coleman said. “It’s been a part of my lifestyle since I was a little kid.”
He was good at it, too. In fact, Coleman was undefeated up until 2009 when he was just 19 years old. He became a professional boxer and started training with professional boxer and World Boxing Organization champion, Terrence “Bud” Crawford. As of 2019, Crawford has a 35-0 overall record and has 26 knockouts in his career.
“It made me proud,” Coleman said. “That’s when I loved boxing. As I got older, I didn’t really start taking it seriously.”
The boxer had everything going for him inside the ring but outside was a different story.
“My mind was one foot in boxing and one foot in the streets,” Coleman said. “My career shifted.”
He developed an ego from boxing—an ego that got him in trouble when he wasn’t putting on gloves. Coleman says many of his friends are incarcerated and won’t ever see the light of day again. He’s thankful he’s managed to escape jail time. He was one of the lucky ones.
According to the Omaha Police Department’s crime mapping website, North Omaha has had over 1,000 reported crimes in six months. Between 2018 and 2019, there have been a total of 36 homicides, and 24 of those homicides took place in northern Omaha precincts.
“We’re a product of our environment,” Coleman said. “We are what we step outside to be. I told myself if I’m going to keep down this path, I’m going to be right with my friends.”
Now, at 29 years old, Coleman is a different man than he was 10 years ago. It’s not just the new facial hair on his chin but the maturity that came with it.
He sits in a black folding chair wearing a grey Nike hoodie and sweatpants. A smoothie bar sits in the corner of the gym. Behind him are weights, multi-colored resistance bands, a music speaker and a wide-open space where he’s witnessed blood, sweat and tears.
“With age comes wisdom,” Coleman laughed.
The place where he’s at now is home—not just to Coleman but the community of Omaha. It’s where he discovered a way out of the streets.
The place is Top Flight Fitness.
When Coleman was a child, all he wanted to do was float in the clouds.
“One of my biggest dreams was that I wanted to do aviation,” Coleman said. “I was intrigued with planes and flying.”
A degree in aviation meant years of schooling, and Coleman had no interest in pursuing a secondary education—college just wasn’t his thing. He decided to give up his dream of flying airplanes. It was time to reach a new height, and this time he’d help others on the way.
In 2012, Coleman was introduced to Desmond Wilford, a strength and conditioning coach for boxing. Coleman says he was intrigued by how Wilford kept equipment in the trunk of his car and drove around the city training people, and getting them in shape.
“I took after that,” Coleman says. “This is something I really want to do in my life. I’ve been having trainers my whole life for boxing and stuff. I love hard workouts.”
That same year, Coleman became a certified personal trainer. His first year, he took on two clients.
“I gave those two clients results, and it spread like wildfire,” Coleman said.
He packed his equipment in his car and began training clients in gyms throughout the Omaha area. In 2017, he opened up Top Flight Fitness in North Omaha.
The gym’s logo is an airplane—a symbol of elevation and a childhood dream.
“Our community in North Omaha needs the most help with fitness,” Coleman said. “When I started, nobody cared about working out. Out west, the Asians and white folks were into keeping their body together.”
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reported that in 2017, “among non-Hispanic black adults, 48.4 percent were considered to have obesity, and about 12.4 percent were considered to have extreme obesity.”
Top Flight trainer Niyah Gonzalez sees the love Coleman has for North Omaha.
“He could have gone and opened a gym in West O,” Gonzalez said. “He could charge way more and make tons of money, but he wanted to give back to his community.”
Coleman says he wants people to reach new levels and elevate their fitness journeys. He holds training camps throughout the year and also has one-on-one sessions. Clients learn to use their own body weight and weights as resistance to perform exercises that target all muscle groups. The clients have eight weeks to accomplish their goals, the same time period boxers get to train for their fights.
Top Flight hasn’t just transformed bodies but also lives—especially for those in North Omaha. He hopes to help troubled youth in the area and prevent individuals from making the same mistakes he made when he was younger. He also wants it to be an escape from the streets.
“My message to the young crowd and kids is place your mind a couple years from today,” Coleman said. “What you’re doing right now, you’re going to regret. That’s why I’m in the gym. Everything I need is here.”
The gym is popular for fitness lovers throughout Omaha, and even Lincoln, Neb.
Lincoln resident, Maddie Kuchar, makes the 45-minute drive to Top Flight multiple times during the week.
“The results I’ve gotten from Treven are second-to-none,” Kuchar said. “He’s affordable and understands that fitness is such a crucial aspect to living a healthy life.”
Top Flight draws in people from all different backgrounds.
“It’s diverse,” Gonzalez said. “When you walk in the gym, you’ll see white people, Hispanic people, Native Americans and black people. But you’re going to see mostly black people—and I think that’s a message in and of itself.
Coleman is living, breathing, walking proof that a black man is more than what society says he is. He’s not a statistic, not a rapper, and he’s more than an athlete. He’s a business owner, a father, a son and a brother. He’s the definition of black excellence and continues to help others on his way to success. He has no plans of stopping in the future.
“I’m not done with Omaha,” Coleman said. “I’m never going to be done with Omaha.”
View this post on Instagram
I took a chance on myself when I had options to take more chances in these streets, take more chances seeing if I can get the big bag the ugly way, take chances on entering a casket , or take chances entering a jail cell. 2013 I said I’m good on the streets after seeing everybody I ran with get caught and do a huge bid I realized I can’t put my family through anymore pain.