Over the last 11 years, Dr. Tommy Newton, as well as other school officials, have worked at stressing the importance of health in school-aged children throughout the county. Now, a new summer health program will extend those efforts.
The program is a summer extension of the Fitness Renaissance program which has been ongoing in Clinton City and Sampson County Schools. Its purpose, Newton said, is to teach children healthy lifestyle habits at an early age.
“We reward children who achieve fitness goals during the school year in various activities specified in the program, such as the pacer run, sit-ups, pushups, and sit and reach flexibility tests,” Newton said about the kindergarten through third-grade program.
Newton, chairman of the board for Fitness Renaissance, Inc., said each child competes against their individual goal. If that goal is achieved, the participant is awarded. When school ends, children are awarded with a gold or silver medal, or a certificate, depending on their level of achievement. As part of the school-year program, at the beginning and ending of the school period, a child’s body mass index is measured.
“We then plot what percentage of children are overweight or obese as a way of monitoring the program’s progress in its mission,” Newton said. “Despite successes during each school year, gains that are achieved during the school with regards to weight and fitness are often lost during the summer, in the same manner that reading and math skills are often lost during the summer.”
Therefore, Newton and the Fitness Renaissance board felt it necessary to extend the program into the summer, when children are out of school.
The Fitness Renaissance Summer Superstars program was developed in 2015 and was supported as a pilot program by United Way of Sampson County to continue the mission of the program when children are away from school. Each child involved was selected by a physical education teacher to participate. Newton called the process, which includes 300 children, a family affair since it required participation from parents. Each parent was asked to document at least one hour of physical activity for at least four days of the week. They were also asked to keep track of everything the child eats.
When school begins, each participant will return their records to their PE teacher to verify the information. The children will be rewarded with a special Fitness Renaissance Summer Superstar shirt bearing a logo of the program.
“This will signify the child as a FR Summer Superstar, and the child can proudly wear it among his peers at school or in the community,” Newton said.
The success of implementing the program this year will determine if it continues for years to come.
“Depending on the success of the summer program and on adequate funding, we will consider expanding this program next summer to a larger contingent of children in Sampson County,” Newton said.