(Photo by Cydney Scott for BU Photography)
South End families will soon have more access to state-of-the-art fitness facilities, wellness programs, and nutritional counseling as part of a newly established program by the city and Boston University to combat teen obesity.
City and university officials announced Thursday they are preparing to launch the Boston University Health, Fitness and Wellness Program in the South End’s Blackstone Community Center to boost the city’s ongoing initiative to bring free and low-cost fitness and wellness programs to at-risk communities.
“The great partnership between the Boston Centers for Youth and Families and the Blackstone Community Center and Boston University will in fact transorm the ablity of residents in this neighborhood--particularly our young people and their parents and caregivers--to have a place where they get to go to do the kind of exercise that so many of us have opportunities to engage in," Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said outside the community center Thursday as children returned from outings and teens played basketball on the outdoor court.
BU is investing $1.25 million over five years and working with the two city agencies a to provide access to fitness training, nutrition counseling, and wellness programming in a renovated section of the Blackstone Community Center.
That section, now a locker room and shower that has gone unused for more than 10 years, will be transformed into fitness and wellness center complete with cardiovascular and circuit training equipment, hand weights, and stretching and strength equipment.
Daphne Griffin, Boston's chief of Human Services and executive director of Boston Center for Youth & Families, said the new equipment, programming, and counselling will help improve the health of the neighborhood and bring people together for a common cause.
"What’s even more exciting is our community is really going to be able to help us shape the programing that happens in their community center and their fitness center," she said.
The program, expected to be running by early 2013, will be supervised by members of the university’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and schools of medicine, public health, and social work, and will be staffed by the members of the school’s Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
“That is a win win for both of us. We believe we can really help with the objectives of the Blackstone Center and at the same time give tremendous internship possibilities to our own students who are interested in working in the community,” said BU President Robert A. Brown.
Brown said the Blackstone Community Center was chosen as the site of the program because of its potential to reach at-risk teens and adults, and its proximity to other resources, such as BU’s medical school campus and the South End Community Health Center.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino thanked the school for partnering with the city to help improve the health and fitness both children and adults, and by extension, improving their futures.
Menino said the university and the city agencies are "all working together to make sure we have a city that works for the future of Boston, the young people, the adults of Boston, also [they're] working in a diverse neighborhood--and that diverse neighborhood is really the strength of the city of Boston."
The university also plans to provide 100 spots in BU summer sports camps to city teens, and has donated two hours of Sunday afternoon ice time for Allston-Brighton Youth Hockey as a way to encourage them to play sports and to see the campus as part of their community.
“A university campus should not be a foreign place. It should not be a place that you should feel excluded when your a youth,” Brown said.