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Fit for the Future

Worrying about the softening of America is not a new concept, though we continue to see data legitimizing these concerns and (hopefully) inciting us to act. Over 50 years ago John F. Kennedy said it was a “national problem (requiring) national action. He wrote, “We do not want our children to become a generation of spectators. Rather, we want each of them to be a participant in the vigorous life.” Fit for the Future is a program for 5th and 7th grade students committed to preventing a ‘generation of spectators’.

Fit for the Future began 3 years ago after a call by Sonora Regional Medical Center for an innovative, (disruptive), solution to a county health problem. The county schools office answered that call by creating Fit for the Future, a collaborative effort dedicated to eliminating childhood obesity in our county.

Our first contact was with local fitness trainer and Registered Nurse, Brie Ferguson. We wanted to try a pilot program at a couple of schools; Jamestown, Curtis Creek and then later in the year, Twain Harte elementary schools. Brie was the perfect choice as she shared a passion for this topic by volunteering years ago at the county schools office with their annual event, the Healthy Schools Summit at Columbia College.

The first year of FFF showed excellent results. In fact, California uses the CA Physical Fitness Test (PFT) as a metric for measuring success. The PFT is comprised of 6 components. Each component has associated standards of achievement called Healthy Fitness Zones (HFZ). Achieving the HFZ in all 6 components is an indicator of good health and correlates to improved academic achievement. In Ca, 29% of the students achieve the HFZ in all 6 components. In 7th grade the level rises to 31%.

The pilot schools scores were over 45% in 5th grade and 47% in 7th grade. Wow, something is working.

Thanks to a grant from Anthem Blue Cross in 2012 we were able to bring top PE instructor, Paul McIllroy, from Curtis Creek into the county office for one year. Paul brought with him over 20 years of experience in teaching, the majority in physical education, and a passion for improving the fitness levels of his students. Please note the word passion again. Paul has that special quality that inspires students to work hard, to do more, and to exceed their own expectations. He worked alongside Brie and they worked with all the public schools in the county.

The goal was for the average to be 50% or higher. We did not meet the goal, we exceeded it. We actually had an average score of 54% for the 5th grade students, (highest in the state). The 7th grade average was 57%, (second highest in the state).

Word of the success of the program has escaped our county. In March, the CA Secretary of Health, Diana Dooley, will be visiting our schools to see the program in action.

Both Paul and Brie will be returning to their ‘day jobs’ in the fall, but the program will continue with two new staff, TBD.