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Keeping Students, Faculty and Families Fit

Cielo Vista Charter School opens community gym

Palm Springs’ Cielo Vista Charter School has opened a new community fitness center, thanks to a well-deserved $70,000 grant from the Desert Healthcare District (DHCD).

Faculty and staff work out in the new center

Faculty and staff work out in the new center

In 2010, the school created a wellness program that went beyond traditional PE classes to teach students about healthy eating and lifestyles. The goal of the three-year grant-funded program called ‘Soaring to Change’ was to reduce the childhood obesity rate in the tuition-free school comprised of 79 percent socio-economically disadvantaged students. Within the first year, the student obesity rate dropped by 20 percent. By the end of the third year, it was down 70 percent.

So the school took it a step further to include faculty and student family members with their new ‘Soaring to Change the Community’ program. The DHCD grant provided for a fitness center which features a variety of premium fitness equipment and is free to Cielo Vista Charter staff and student family members.  It will be open during regular school hours with designated blocks of time established for middle school students in the TK-8 school. The only requirement to use the fitness center is that participants must have an updated annual physical authorized by their physician. “The prerequisite also encourages this segment of our community to get regular checkups to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Kathy Greco, Chief Executive Officer of Desert Healthcare District.

Students write in their health journals after fitness class

Students write in their health journals after fitness class

The center opened in January and over 50 percent of teachers and administration are taking part says PE/nutrition teacher Tanya Niwa. They expect family members, who strongly supported the obesity rate effort, to be close behind. “Parents will say, ‘I’ve been telling my kids not to eat fast food for years, but now that it is coming from their teachers – with education to support – they are finally listening,’” adds Niwa.

Students Katy Bonilla and Mariah Guillermo say the program has changed them. “I used to eat a lot more chips,” says Bonilla, “but now I eat smaller portions and make healthier choices.” Guillermo says she even gave up ice cream. Both would like to see the fitness center accessible to students (versus teachers) for additional hours – another great sign that this program is working.

For more information about Cielo Vista Charter School visit www.cielovistacharter.com or call (760) 416.8250.

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