- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

WAYNE, N.J. (AP) - Students at Schuyler-Colfax Middle School are climbing their way to health, rung by rung, thanks to a grant awarded to them on behalf of Project Fit, a national public charity.

Project Fit works to partner with schools that demonstrate a strong commitment to fitness and health, according to Aimee Toth, principal at Schuyler-Colfax. The school is the first to receive such a grant in the district, and it joins over 870 school systems in 43 states as a recipient.

The grant, of which one of the sponsors is Chilton Medical Center, provides both indoor and outdoor fitness equipment and curriculum. Representatives from Chilton, along with the New Jersey Devils mascot, participated in the Project Fit kick-off that included a ribbon cutting and fitness demonstrations.

“The grant provided us the opportunity to get state-of-the-art outdoor equipment to address the major components of muscular strength and endurance,” said Toth.

The school also received mobile indoor equipment, professional development, and a membership to Atlantic Healthy Schools, which has a wealth of online resources and programs to enhance the existing curriculum, she added.

The indoor supplies and curriculum were received in July and the outdoor equipment was installed in August. In September, physical education teachers Fran Rella and Sam Levine launched the Project Fit training with sixth, seventh and eighth grade students. They were led by Coach Ken, a Project Fit master teacher from Georgia using the indoor mobile fitness equipment. Training on the outdoor equipment, which includes step-up, pole climb, and pull-up stations, said Toth, took place in mid-October led by Kathie Immerman, Project Fit “All Star Teacher” of Mount Prospect School in Basking Ridge.

“The training provided the teachers with demonstrations of how the equipment is used, including safety measures, and at least three different levels of intensity to allow students of varied ability levels to be successful,” Toth added.

Project Fit America is a national (501)(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates and administers fitness education programming in elementary and middle schools. It addresses self-esteem, fitness and exercise, as well as leadership, sportsmanship and character development. Find out more about the program at www.projectfitamerica.org.

The goal of the program is to increase youth fitness and provide teachers access to tools they need to teach children to take responsibility for their health and embrace healthy lifestyle choices with enthusiasm.

With the prevalence of childhood obesity today, Toth said the fitness equipment is an important addition to the school and for the students overall.

“One of the reasons that we felt so strongly about applying for the grant is the importance of fitness. More than ever, students face stress, packed schedules, and often make unhealthy choices as a result. We felt that the equipment would provide not just our students, but the community, with an opportunity to make fitness a priority. Not only does it have a positive physical impact, but fitness activities also provide great mental release,” she said.

And since their initial training, Toth adds that the students have been excited.

“To see their energy and effort when working with the trainers speaks volumes about the program. Simple strategies to increase competition such as working for fitness cups really engages the kids,” she said.

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Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), https://www.northjersey.com

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