Piner ACES to fight childhood obesity

The Sherman Independent School District’s after school program, ACES, will receive a $1,000 grant to implement a program called Healthy Choices Go Out For A Run (GO FAR) at Piner Middle School.

GO FAR is a running program designed to help students train for a five kilometer race later this semester. Adult volunteer coaches will use the Healthy Choices curriculum to educate students on making healthy food choices and building the endurance needed for a 5K race. Students and coaches will set fitness and running goals for the children as they train.

“The funds from this grant will allow us to provide students healthy snacks to support the students on the days they are actually running,” Alicia Thurston, ACES site manager at Piner, said. “During the food lessons, students will be researching ways to make some of their favorite snacks and desserts healthier by substituting some ingredients.”

The grant was part of more than $175,000 awarded to nearly 200 schools and community-based non-profit organizations nationwide by Youth Service America and a corporate sponsor. The grants were awarded to youth-led programs that include an activity element and a service element. The Piner ACES program, one of only 15 grant proposals selected from the state of Texas, was designed to help fight childhood obesity.

“This proposal included two parts — a running program called GO FAR and an ongoing study of making healthy food choices,” Thurston explained. “The GO FAR part of this grant proposal will help the participants prepare to run in a 5K race, which we will do at the end of this project. The healthy food choices will focus on everyday healthier food choices as well as researching foods that will better support your body for running.”

The Piner site manager said the grant will also allow the students to cook some of the healthier recipes and they hope to hold a “healthy” bake sale later this semester.

“(This program) asks the young people of Texas to step up to address an issue that directly affects them,” YSA President and CEO Steven A. Culbertson said. “The program is changing the way communities across the country think about the role of young people. Kids can be leaders. They are teaching other kids — and grown-ups too — about the value of healthy lifestyles.”

According to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American children is obese or overweight, conditions that can lead to chronic ailments like heart disease and diabetes. The program ACES will implement for the fifth through eighth graders at Piner was developed to encourage children, working with youth leaders and educators, to create and administer running and hiking programs to battle childhood obesity.

“We will begin this program with 15 boys and 15 girls,” Thurston said. “Our program will run for 12 weeks. Each week, participants will actually prepare for the 5K by running on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, participants will have the healthy food choice lessons.”

The current ACES teachers will be administering the program. Stacie Collins and Tommie Koch will lead the running portions, while Katie Hendrickson and Teri Masters will lead the healthy food portion.

“I will be working with our ACES director, Nele Rogers, to coordinate adult volunteers from the community to both come and run with the students as well as speaking to the students about making healthy food choices,” Thurston said. “The food choices students make have effects now and long term effects.”

Now in its fourth year, the ACES program, which stands for After school Centers on Education — Sherman, is funded through federal grants administered by the Texas Education Agency. This year that funding has been reduced by 25 percent and will be reduced by a further 25 percent next year.

Youth Service America has worked for the past 25 years to help communities by sponsoring programs such as Global Youth Service Day and Semester of Service; YSA grants and awards programs; and resources and training opportunities. YSA promotes a global culture of engaged youth committed to a lifetime of community action, learning, leadership and achievement.