Gulfport students, teachers battle to become 'biggest losers' - - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport students, teachers battle to become 'biggest losers'

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – They are strengthening their arms and their abs, and boosting their cardio and coordination. Students at Pass Road Elementary School in Gulfport are racing to see who's the best when it comes to fitness and health.

"We have different events that measure speed, quickness, power, agility, cardio, and just different levels of fitness.  We'll track and we'll time what they do," said Coach Adrian Dodson.

"Bend those arms and jump!" a teacher told the children as she prepared to measure their jump.

Pass Road's fitness campaign is an example of a school-wide effort to fight childhood obesity.  It's also an example of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign.  On Wednesday, Mrs. Obama visited two Mississippi schools to promote her initiative.  It targets four areas, including encouraging students to get up and move.

At Pass Road, the coach used a Project Fit America Grant to install exercise equipment and gear.  And twice a week, the students start off their day by doing aerobics.   

Nutrition also plays a vital role. During lunch, there are plenty of healthy options.

"Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the country and so changing the way that they eat, like healthy foods in our cafeteria.  We don't have any fried foods and there's tuna fish almost everyday on the menu as a choice," said teacher Jeannie Cook.

Fifth grader Henry Strickland says he chooses a salad for lunch just about every day.  

"Because it's healthy and stuff," said Henry.

That gives motivation to the teachers and staff. A fitness room on campus allows them to work-out during their free time. And two weeks ago, they kicked off their own version of The Biggest Loser.     

Teachers must donate to the pot if they gain weight during their weekly weigh-ins or miss their weigh-in date.  So far, Terri Tyler is leading the pack by shedding the most pounds.

"I've lost eleven pounds so far," said Tyler.  "It feels fantastic."

When asked if she was going to win the contest, she smiled and responded, "Yes ma'am, I am."

Next week, Pass Road Elementary will offer after-school exercise classes for the faculty. And the principal said test scores and student behavior have improved over the years and he credits the school-wide fitness program for the positive changes.

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