Seniors from Mahar Regional School are helping our younger students at OES develop healthy habits they hope will stay with them for the rest of their lives! The teens will travel to Dexter Park each week to host a new running club for sixth-graders.
Though the club just started at the beginning of March, its members said they have seen a lot of students enthusiastic about the program, with around 30 to 35 joining in each day the club meets.
Dexter Park currently has two running programs: Boys on the Right Track and Girls on the Run, but the programs meet after school, which can pose problems for students without access to transportation. So when the seniors approached the principal about the idea of a running club during recess, staffers were all in.
The elementary school students run laps during recess, while the seniors track their miles. In order to motivate the students to run, the club hands out prizes for miles accomplished. Kayla Cleveland, a senior at Mahar, said the club even hosts a moment of recognition for the pupils by announcing each day’s prize winners over the school’s intercom system.
As part of an honors class, the seniors spent months organizing the club by researching the best way to implement more physical activity into the students’ days, visiting other surrounding schools and meeting with Principal Christopher Dodge.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, childhood obesity affects 12.7 million children and adolescents in the United States, some of the causes being eating and various physical activity behaviors. At Dexter Park, students meet once a week for a 40-minute physical education class. Knowing the students’ access to exercise was limited, the seniors wanted to allow the students to have more time to be active throughout the week.
Jack Temple, a senior at Mahar, said as part of their research for the club, they explored the physical activity programs at not only Dexter Park, but surrounding towns, including Erving and New Salem. Ultimately, the group chose Dexter Park for its focus.
But funding was tight. To get the club off to a start, the seniors raised about $1,000 — $500 of which came from Modo Gym in Orange, while the rest came from other local businesses and community members. The group said the funds go directly to the students and Dexter Park, along with prizes that encourage them to keep up with their miles. Prizes include bracelets and bubble jump ropes, with foam footballs yet to come.
Even though the seniors are graduating this year, they plan to keep the club going. They are currently searching for an adviser to sustain the program for next year and hope to expand their club’s reach.