Health First Fitness Grant Amps Up Brevard Public Middle Schools’ PE Program
By Space Coast Daily // May 6, 2019
Grant Impacts Almost 4,000 Students, Helping Them Stay Active
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Sticking to physical activity can be a challenge for anyone – especially with today’s electronic distractions and modern-day conveniences. And with 40.3% of Brevard children classified as overweight, inspiring them to be active is even more important.
Health First is working to lower that number through various Community Benefit programs, including the Health First FUNctional Fitness Grant.
For the second year in a row, the not-for-profit community health system provided new physical education (PE) equipment to 16 Brevard Public Middle Schools, including Kennedy Middle School in Rockledge.
Principal Sherry Tomlinson described the benefits as “far-reaching.”
“It has allowed for our students to experience a greater level of enjoyment and engagement in physical education because of the fabulous equipment and training that has been funded,” Tomlinson said.
“To have the resources to send one of our PE teachers twice to a national conference and have him come back to share professional development with his peers not only at Kennedy but with other secondary school PE teachers has the potential to improve the wellness of students across our district; and what could be better than improved health? I thank Health First for their commitment to improving wellness and educational opportunities for our students and teachers.”
Health First’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment identified disparities in Brevard County, which included overweight and obese children between the ages of 12 to 15.
Of the 40.3% of Brevard children ages 5 to 17 who are overweight, 26% percent are considered obese. As a result, the Board of Trustees approved an implementation strategy to address this disparity through programs to increase physical activity and good nutrition.
The new fitness grant program aims to assess local schools and provide them with basic needs to help students achieve health and fitness goals. This year, the grant will impact almost 4,000 students at six middle schools.
The Health First grant to enhance Kennedy Middle School’s PE equipment has added:
- Omnikin Ultra Ball – 48 inches
- Class Plus Speed & Agility Pack
- Rainbow Slamballs
- Rainbow Medicine Balls
- Omnikin SIX Ball – 18 inches
- FitStep Pro Pedometers
So far, the ropes – included in the agility pack – have been a definite hit. Seventh-grader Nyla Patricio said she’s seen a big difference in her basketball skills.
“We do a lot of cool stuff,” she said of the equipment. “I like working out and doing activity…with the ropes, it will help with my arms, so I get more strength.”
Nyla is also able to take her lessons learned at school to build on them at home. Same for Joshua Wimberly, an eighth-grader who enjoys basketball and baseball.
“The ropes, it works everything,” Joshua said, noting his back and arm strength has improved. “I’ve gotten faster and stronger.”
PE teacher Brian Helton said the variety – paired with classroom lessons on nutrition and more – gives students ownership in taking charge of their health, especially critical in today’s society.
“They’re stuck at home, and they’re not moving. They’re on their phones,” Helton said. “Now, this gives them an outlet.”
Seeing positive changes can inspire students to bring their reformed health habits home with them, having a ripple effect on their families.
“It’s a good thing not only for the body, but it’s good for the mind also,” Helton said. “It’s a scientific fact, with movement, you have more blood flow, your brain is working better.”
Being more physically active and talking about it can also inspire kids to work with one another and socialize better – something not so easy to do when they’re glued to electronic devices.
“It gives them that chance to be able to communicate, to be able to look someone in the eye,” Helton said. “It’s all about life skills. And that’s what I’m trying to teach these kids.”
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