(pictured above: Camp attendees take swimming lessons.)
Winston-Salem State University is doing its part to combat the nation’s troubling youth obesity epidemic.
More than 50 kids from low-income households took part in the two-week Rams Fitness Academy earlier this month. The camp-style program for children 10 to 12 offered a variety of physical activities and interactive health literacy sessions. The kids started the day at 7:30 a.m., getting moving with activities like swimming lessons, soccer, golf, tennis and dance. Later in the day, they moved to a classroom setting to learn about healthy eating and even things like how to calculate their body mass index. WSSU students helped to teach sessions and led the kids in their physical activities.
Recognition programs were held at the end of each day, where the kids were lauded for their hard work and commitment.
“We are trying to teach the kids how to live healthier and more active lives,” said Cynthia Williams Brown, chair of the department of Human Performance and Sports Sciences. “The childhood obesity rate, especially for minority and low-income children, is so high. A lot of children do not have any activity during the summer, and this was a way to keep them active and also learn some concepts during the summer about maintaining a healthy life.”
The free camp was funded through a $150,000 research-based U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant. The participants were recruited through area churches, schools and neighborhood associations, Brown said.
Rhyan Ellerbee is only 10 but grasped the gist of the hefty mission of the program.
“It’s a fitness camp that helps if you are overweight and teaches you not to be overweight,” she said. “Here you can do soccer, running and have a healthy lunch instead of junk food.”
Askia Smith,10, said swimming and soccer were his favorite activities. He liked the fellowshipping, too.
“The camp is fun, and I made some new friends,” he said.
The program has received good community feedback according to Stenson Conley, lecturer and co-coordinator of Sports Management at WSSU.
“Parents are calling every day talking about how well their son or daughter has enjoyed the camp,” he said. “They say when they come home, they’re tired and go to sleep because they’ve actually been active all day.”