By Perry Schaible
NORTH COLLEGE HILL - Freshmen at North College Hill High School are not only hitting the books this year, they're hitting the weights.
Over the summer, the school teamed up with the National School Fitness Foundation for the effort to keep kids healthy through its comprehensive fitness program - LIFT America: Leadership in Fitness Training - becoming one of 81 schools in Ohio to implement the program. There are 11 Greater Cincinnati districts participating, including Cincinnati Public Schools and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
NSFF donated materials for a new fitness center that the students attend two to three times a week in their physical education classes. The three-year grant program is valued at nearly $220,000.
Teacher assistant and head basketball coach Jamie Mahaffey heard of the program from associates with the Cincinnati Public Schools and Mount Healthy City School District. Liking the free equipment he knew the school district couldn't afford, Mahaffey presented the idea to his superiors.
Now in charge of the fitness area, he sees that the program is helping the students understand the importance of fitness.
"It brings to the realization that their body matters and how in shape they are matters," Mahaffey said.
The students' weight, body fat, blood pressure, and pulse are measured throughout the year to adhere to program requirements.
"So at the end of the year, you can hand the students a sheet to show how they've improved," said Athletic Director Joe Nickel.
The program will reach approximately 120 ninth-grade students this year.
"We were fortunate because our equipment was a little old, some of it was falling apart, breaking down; so this was a blessing for us," Nickel said.
"We are saying to the schools: if you will supply space and personnel, and follow the program's requirements, we will contribute a state-of-the-art Health and Wellness Physical Education Center," said Cameron Lewis, president of the NSFF, a nonprofit organization formed in 2000 and financed by the U.S. military and private corporations.
In the future, officials at North College Hill hope to incorporate the program into the eighth-grade physical education classes as well as open the fitness center to the public.
The center is heavily used by the school's athletic teams.
The NSFF is working on a nutrition program to be included.
Schools interested in the program should call the NSFF at 801-492-3440.
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