The damning statistics about childhood obesity are not as much fun to report as good news about programs that support physical activity for kids’ health. This good news comes courtesy of UCLA Health’s Sound Body Sound Mind, which just donated a $50,000 state-of-the-art fitness center to Belvedere Middle School in East Los Angeles. Belvedere is one of seven L.A.-area schools chosen to receive a new fitness center this year. The program was created to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles by enhancing physical education programs and fitness resources for inner-city students. East Los Angeles has the highest rate of childhood obesity in L.A. County. In addition to commercial-grade fitness equipment, the program comes with a physical education curriculum designed to boost confidence and make participating in physical activity more fun.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony that accompanied the fitness center’s grand opening featured teachers and staff along with students working out and dancing to music provided by the school’s arts department. “Having experienced the [ribbon cutting ceremony] was one of my highest, most memorable events. The excitement in the air, the live band, the TV media all around us and witnessing everyone have a great time was priceless,” says Belvedere physical education teacher J. Armando Beltran. The ceremony took place March 4 and gave students hope not only to get fit, but pass the state-mandated student fitness assessment FITNESSGRAM, says Maura Morales, an 8th grade student who is happy to get moving with the new fitness equipment. “The only equipment the school had was in a run-down weight room and most of the equipment was broken,” says Yaseline Tzili, also in the 8th grade.
Just under 30 percent of kids in East L.A. are obese, almost 10 percentage points above the average across L.A. County. Bill Simon, co-founder of Sound Body Sound Mind says that’s what made Belvedere Middle a priority for their help. “While these communities consistently demonstrate the greatest need for fitness resources, they are often the least likely to receive it. Belvedere Middle School is 99.7 percent of minority students and 100 percent of their students receive free or reduced price lunch,” he says. Despite its economic status, Belvedere’s Principal, Joanne Carrillo, sees the fitness center as giving hope to children through becoming physically active. “Now with our new fitness center, students at Belvedere Middle School will be able to improve their health and well-being in the years to come and see results within a few weeks,” she says. Seventh grader Jonathan Bautista shares her sentiment: “I want to stay fit and healthy and the new fitness center will help encourage us to live healthier lives.”
To learn more about UCLA Health’s Sound Body Sound Mind program, visit its website.