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Chicopee Woods students get kick out of fitness
Falcons visit to salute school for earning gold medal in SHAPE
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Chicopee Woods Elementary fifth-grader Maria Contreras joins classmates in a pushup exercise in the school’s gymnasium. Members of the Atlanta Falcons visited the school to help the students through several forms of physical activity.

Sydney Hunt, 11, knew exactly what to wear for the fitness celebration at her school Tuesday morning: her Atlanta Falcons jersey, of course.

She and her friend Kaylie Patterson, 10, enjoyed a workout with seven members of the Atlanta Falcons in their school gym.

The NFL players set up stations in the Chicopee Woods Elementary School gym and coached students through the different fitness zones. Each station gave the kids a chance to practice throwing a ball, skipping, running or doing modified push-ups.

The players encouraged the children to give each activity their best effort. In turn, the students clapped and cheered their classmates on, encouraging some to push through the exercise and accomplish more than they initially thought they could.

“We’re trying to see how fast we can go,” Kaylie said, smiling, while she waited for her turn to sprint.

The celebration of fitness was held to reward the students and faculty for their success with the governor’s Georgia SHAPE program. September is Georgia SHAPE month.

The school, along with seven other Hall County schools, was awarded Gold Medal School status in SHAPE. There were 39 schools to reach the gold level.

SHAPE encourages children to make healthy choices through education and physical activity at school. The program has several partners, including the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s truly been a team effort and I think it’s very fitting that they would send football players who are asked to come together for a common goal because that is the same thing we were asked to do, to come together as a team for a common goal,” Chicopee Woods principal Hank Ramey said.

By the end of the fitness party, the students were breathing heavy and were a little sweaty but they weren’t too tired to bust a move in an impromptu dance party with the football players.

Ramey said the program has had a positive effect on the students by ensuring they get at least an hour of physical activity a day.

“In today’s climate with academics being at the forefront, it’s very easy to cut programs like PE but we’ve made that commitment to maintain that number of minutes for our students,” Ramey said.

In addition to physical activity, the school has taken several steps to encourage healthy habits, such as exchanging sugary sports drinks for water in vending machines and offering more fruits in the cafeteria.

Even the teachers are taking healthy steps by transforming the hallways into an indoor walking track after school.

“We’re just trying to really push the health and fitness of our kids and instilling in them that there is another lifestyle,” said Kayren Oesterle, co-chair of the health and wellness committee.

Oesterle said she, too, has noticed the students making healthy lifestyle changes and pushing themselves to reach their goals.

Friendship Elementary School in Buford will also receive recognition for achieving gold medal status. The school’s principal, Berry Walton, will be presented an award for the school’s efforts with SHAPE at the Atlanta Falcons game this Sunday.

Walton said he’s proud to accept the award on behalf of the school. He said he’s noticed huge gains in students’ health since the school began focusing on wellness several years ago.

“We’re just trying to create a health and wellness culture to develop lifelong skills in that area,” Walton said.

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