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Dorchester students 'Step It Up' with Menino, Patrick, and Sebelius

Posted by Patrick Rosso  February 29, 2012 12:19 PM

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(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)

In Video: Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius taking part in some healthy activity with students at the Holmes School.

Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino were joined by US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at the Holmes Elementary School in Dorchester Wednesday morning to promote the Partners Step It Up program, which promotes healthy living through exercise and positive life choices.

“Thanks for being the model for a program that is about to be expanded in the Commonwealth,” Patrick said. “We have, all around the country, a national epidemic around childhood and adult obesity…We need all of us to eat better and move more, and we appreciate the example that you young people are setting for the rest of us.”

The Step It Up program was launched in 2010, in partnership with the Boston Public Schools and Partners Healthcare, to stimulate youth activity and give the students the power to track their steps and see really just how much exercise they are getting.

“We are trying to educate the whole child,” said Carol R. Johnson, superintendent of Boston Public Schools. “If they make the right choices now, they will as adults be making healthy choices.”

Dr. Joseph Kvedar, director of Partner's Center for Connected Health, said the program gives students and their families the ability to really look at their own lifestyles.

"The power of objective information about your health is not to be underestimated," Kvedar said. "It's really about instilling those healthy life habits as early as possible."

To demonstrate what they have learned from the program, fourth-grade students who participated last year as third-graders hopped, skipped and even crawled on their backs to show that although exercise at times can be hard work, it can also be a lot of fun.

“Being a generation away from these students, I remember playing outside and running around the block,” said state Representative Carlos Henriquez, who even got down and his hands and knees and crab walked with the kids. “I just don’t see that [kids playing outside] anymore and if this program gets them moving, that’s great.”

The program takes a serious look at how to get kids active. Students' shoes are installed with “sneaker chips” so that they can track how many steps they take, competing against other students to see who is the most active.

“They love it,” said Melissa Sidiropoulos, a third-grade teacher at the Holmes school, whose students participated in the program last year. “When they got their reports on Friday it really encouraged them to better their own scores.”

Last year the program was launched at only at the Holmes and at Fifield Elementary. This year the program is expanding to include the Edward Everett Elementary, John F. Kennedy Elementary, Joseph P. Manning Elementary, William E. Russell Elementary, and the Marion Umana Academy.

While building a foundation for healthy life choices is at the center of the program, a little competition never hurt, with students dividing up into teams to see whose class was the most active. Last year students clocked more than 50 million steps, with Omarion Braggs, a fourth-grader at the Holmes School, being the top stepper.

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E-mail Patrick Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

(Patrick D. Rosso/Boston.com/2012)

Omarion Braggs and a few other Holmes School students who participated in the Step It Up program.

StudentsStepItUp.JPG

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