Itawamba Attendance Center unveils new exercise program, equipment

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

“We know that students learn better in the classroom when they are more fit,” Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Mississippi Executive Director Shelia Grogan told a group of hundreds of Itawamba Attendance Center students during a special ribbon cutting ceremony for the school’s new Project Fit America outdoor exercise area, Friday.

No matter how young, it’s never too early for a child to start looking out for his or her health, she said.

“I encourage you to get out and play,” she told the crowd.

Last week, IAC officially joined the Project Fit America program by unveiling a small outdoor exercise area that will soon become a staple in the school’s physical education courses.

Although passersby might mistake the colorful equipment as part of a new school playground, the seven exercises in the small PFA park are designed to work in tandem with a set exercise routine that works the entire body. The rotation starts with a step-up station, followed by a pair of parallel bars and a horizontal ladder. Then, the rotation continues with a sit-up station before moving on to a station designed for pull ups. Finally, the rotation circles around to a vault bar and pole climb stations.

From start to finish, the entire program is supposed to take about 15 minutes.

The equipment was purchased using a $26,000 Project Fit America grant from Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Mississippi. IAC joins Dorsey Attendance Center in the short list of Itawamba County Schools to have received Project Fit grants. Dorsey received its grant in 2009 and has since utilized the Project Fit equipment as part of its regular physical education courses.

According to IAC Principal Pat Stone, more and more eyes are turning to schools to help lower Mississippi’s high childhood obesity rates. With the help of the new equipment and curriculum provided by Project Fit America, IAC is prepared to do just that.

“We recognize the need to educate and encourage our students to lead healthier and happier lives,” she said. “Through Project Fit America, we have received a curriculum to teach healthy eating, good nutrition and how to make wise food choices.”

Stone said the school received equipment and materials to improve their indoor physical education courses as well.

“Our goal is to try to make a difference by teaching and promoting healthier lifestyles,” the principal said. “We know this needs to start at an early age to develop these healthy lifestyle habits.”

Project Fit America is a national non-profit organization that provides cardiovascular health and fitness programs to schools in an effort to give children more opportunities to be active, fit and healthy. Since 2006, Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Mississippi has invested more than $4.5 million placing Project Fit equipment at 188 elementary and middle schools throughout the state.

“We’re proud to support a program that is helping kids become more active and learn about making choices that will support a healthy lifestyle now and in the future,” Groban said.

adam.armour@journalinc.com