Thursday, June 20, 2013 6:15 AM
Photo by Alexis A. Goring. Bruce McMillan works with Hollywood Elementary students during Fun, Fly & Fit, a United Way program funded by a Department of Education grant to teach students at 15 Prince George’s County public schools about health.
Published on: Friday, October 12, 2012
By Alexis A. Goring
The U.S. Department of Education awarded $761,182 in physical education grant funding to the United Way of the National Capital Area to benefit Prince George’s County public school students.
“The grant enables United Way NCA to expand its acclaimed Fun, Fly & Fit program to 15 Prince George’s County public elementary school year-round for the next three years starting this October,” states a press release.
The program will run for 18 weeks each school year — and 150 students per school in 15 elementary schools will participate in nutritional and physical education programs both during the school day and after school. The program aims to increase the quantity of physical activity through the use of innovative, state-of-the-art HOPSports mobile fitness equipment, according to the press release.
Launched at seven Prince George’s County schools in 2009, the United Way NCA’s Fun, Fly & Fit “is an evidence-based response to the national epidemic of childhood obesity,” states the press release.
“Fun, Fly & Fit already has a remarkable track record of getting kids to begin thinking about their own health and fitness and get them engaged in regular physical activity,” the press release states. “To date, the results-focused program with its mission of lifetime fitness and nutritional wellness has benefited more than 30,000 students. Since its launch, the program has expanded to more than 50 schools, and is currently in more than 60 sites across the greater Washington region logging over 1 million minutes of play.”
Given the program’s success in combating childhood obesity, school principals, including Barbara Caskey of Hollywood Elementary, are excited to participate in Fun, Fly & Fit.
“We believe in Hollywood that is important that you’re looking at the whole child,” Caskey said. “We want our kids to be healthy, and if they’re healthy and they’re energized, you know they’re going to do better academically; they’re going to be able to pay attention better in class. And hopefully, we can relate those things to the things that they’re learning so they will be more interested in the academics as well. So hopefully that will prove to be a true thing that if you’re fit, you’re feeling good, then you’re going to do better academically.”
At Hollywood Elementary, children who wish to participate in the program must be 5 to 12-years-old and students of the school. Parents must fill out a survey and sign a consent form in order for their children to participate.
“It’s really fun getting together with my friends and doing all of these cool activities,” said Isabella Grady, Hollywood Elementary fifth grader who participates in Fun, Fly & Fit.
While there is a martial arts and physical education component to being fun, fly and fit, one of the first games the children played was simply called by the kids a “hopping game.”
“So basically there’s this line and there’s these pins laying out, and you have to hop to the pin, pick it up and tag the next person,” Isabella explained. “And then once everyone has a pin, you have to go and lay them out again.”
The coaches, Isabella said, are already giving good advice on how to be fit and healthy for life.
“They’re talking about healthy fruits like bananas, strawberries and oranges,” she said.
All of the program leaders are certified fitness trainers and instructors such as fitness tech Bruce McMillan, who has previously worked with the military, seniors and youth at the YMCA and Washington Sports Club before he received the phone call that changed the direction of his career.
“I was actually by the water training a client” when a friend called with a job offer, McMillan said.
“So when I called him back, he said a colleague of his needed a fitness instructor,” McMillan said. The colleague was Euneisha Davis, the founder of Fun, Fly & Fit, who offered McMillan his current position.
“I came on board back then in 2008 to help United Way to develop a child wellness initiative, and what we did was we took a survey to find out what the pressing need was at that time. And childhood obesity was a topic of concern at that time. In fact, the D.C. area ranked No.1 for childhood obesity instances in the United States,” Davis said. “So we wanted to solve that problem.”
Fun, Fly & Fit is a six-week curriculum of instructed activity two times a week, 45 minutes each time. Fitness trainers conduct the program, where students are learning about portion control, calorie intake, good nutrition and other basic ideas of gaining and maintaining health and wellness.
“A lot of our students may rely on corner stores to get their breakfast, so they’re getting candy bars and chips. So what we’re doing is we’re educating students and parents on nutrition, what they can afford to be able to live a healthier lifestyle and also what we want to really speak on is adding fun back into play,” Davis said.
“A lot of the neighborhoods that we go in are not safe neighborhoods,” Davis added. “So a lot of times, parents are keeping their children indoors. So (what) we want to do is get the community excited again about playing outside and just having fun.”