Chatter and laughter filled Lowe’s YMCA stairway as exuberant Brawley Middle School girls arrived. These eighth-graders were eager to begin their workout with Dan Tourtelot, health and wellness director.
Members of Interactive Health visit the Y once a week. On other days, the Interactive Health boys’ class or afterschool group visits. They’re participants in a class designed by Mary Shalvey and other staff at Brawley Middle five years ago.
In the beginning, the program targeted students whose health was at risk. That’s no longer the case. Interactive Health serves the entire school population. With additional funds from a $1.8 million Physical Education Programming grant, Interactive Health has expanded to all Iredell-Statesville middle schools, six elementary schools and a club for boys and girls.
From the onset, Lowe’s Y has partnered with Brawley Middle School and now has extended this partnership to schools in the southern end of the county. Interactive Health’s mission aligns with the Y’s three pillars: youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
“The beauty of our relationship with the YMCA is that we are breaking down the barriers. If we can get these students comfortable in a fitness setting and develop healthy habits at a young age, we are planting the seeds for their future.
“They will be comfortable walking into any gym at any time for the rest of their lives,” said Shalvey, a physical education teacher.
Tourtelot and a team of trainers work with the students. He has developed a plan to help students understand the basics of exercise. As they work through flexibility training and core drills, they’re building a foundation. When they’re older, they’ll be able to transfer these skills to any sport.
“We talk about healthy fitness. Kids are getting the whole aspect of it. It’s a team building event and it’s a character building event.
“Coming to the Y shows kids the opportunities they can have to learn, grow and feel good about themselves,” Tourtelot said.
The Y provides a different perspective and enhances the learning kids receive in regular gym classes. Students have access to pools, studios and other amenities.
After a warmup on the indoor track, the students’ muscles were ready for a balance class with stability balls. As they prepared for a relay, the girls named their teams the Terminators and Lightening. “I’m fast like lightening,” one said as her teammates cheered.
Talk turned to favorite exercise activities.
“I like all kinds of exercise, like indoor track and the fact there’s a racquetball court because I love racquetball, and I’m pretty good at it,” student Haillie Whitman said.
Ashley Baldt joined the afterschool program last year and came back for more. She’s training with her dad to run a relay in Atlanta.
“I could not have done this before,” Ashley said. “I’m running a lot more now.”
Like the other girls, Haylie Richardson has discovered she enjoys exercising. She wanted to improve her overall health and run faster. She’s done that and more.
“It’s not just improving fitness. I’ve improved my grades,” Haylie said.
Students learn to set fitness goals. The Y is sponsoring a 5K race on Healthy Kids Day – April 25. More than 50 students from Interactive Health have registered. This is their first 5K.
In addition to improving fitness levels, data shows an increase in students’ school attendance, improved grades, higher end-of-grade scores and less discipline problems.
Erika Arnold, district executive director for Lake Norman and Lowe’s YMCAs, celebrates the Y’s involvement in the students’ development. Not only have they made changes in areas such as body mass index or blood pressure, their confidence levels have increased.
“To know that we are somehow having an impact on the way that a person feels about themselves and the world around them is a tremendous opportunity that we don’t take for granted and that we are very grateful for,” Arnold said.
Sandra Phillips is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Sandra? Email her at email@example.com.
Want to go?
The 5K race on Healthy Kids Day starts at 8:30 a.m. April 25. The half-mile fun run and other activities begin 10 a.m. Register at www.queencitytiming.com/events-calendar1.htm or the day of the event.