Jefferson Elementary was awarded a $25,000 grant through the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation for the Project Fit America program, a fitness initiative that brings indoor and outdoor equipment, teacher training and a fitness curriculum to communities across the country.
Fourth-grade student Denise Rivera is excited about the opportunity her school has to participate in the program.
“I saw a picture of the fitness equipment we will be receiving and, well I just want to try out every single one,” says Denise. “Fitness is a cool thing because you can have a lot of fun, be with your friends, and become a healthier person.”
It all started when Sessia Wyche, the school’s physical education teacher, received a letter in his school mailbox from the Foundation inviting school districts across the Rio Grande Valley to apply for a chance to obtain a grant that could be used for a fitness playground. After an intense application process, Jefferson became one of eight schools in the RGV to be awarded.
Wyche hopes the new equipment will encourage his students to become more active.
“This is an exciting addition to our physical education program,” says Wyche. “Our students will have fun while they also exercise. My goal is for the students here at Jefferson to be able to use the equipment before and after school, maybe even on weekends and in the summertime.”
PFA will provide state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment consisting of seven freestanding workout structures to be installed in a grassy, gated field next to the school and also indoor mobile fitness equipment to be used during inclement weather days. Using the equipment students will be able to develop upper body, lower body, and abdominal strength along with cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.
“The Project Fit America program is a great and exciting opportunity to teach kids about health and wellness at a young age,” says principal Alejandra Lara. “Coach Wyche is always looking for innovative ways to keep both the kids and the staff healthy at Jefferson. So when I found out that we were awarded the grant I couldn’t help but get excited because I know that he is going to take it as far as possible.”
Students as early as grade one can safely use the equipment since activities are non-specific to age and gender.
Once the equipment is installed in fall 2016, PFA will hold on-site training where the coach and other staff will be shown how to properly use the equipment.
To evaluate program effectiveness, all PFA schools participate in two years testing and evaluation for project measurement. Schools will pre-determine whether they wish to test all students or select a benchmark grade level of students to track.
“The plan is to follow third and fourth graders for two years,” says Wyche. “We track how many miles students run, and how many sit-ups, how many pull-ups they can do. They will be tested in the fall and then again in the spring.”
To find more information about Project Fit America, visit www.projectfitamerica.org.