Grant sparks healthy exercises at St. Thomas School

St. Thomas School students are having a ball with the new exercise equipment purchased through a Highmark Healthy High Five Grant. From left are Marilyn Reed, Logan Saborsky, John Love and Leslie Saltsman. Journal photo by Stephen Sears

Leslie Saltsman used to be late for school on a regular basis at Corry’s St. Thomas School.

Now the fifth-grader eagerly arrives early at the Catholic elementary school on West Washington Street, waiting to get in when the doors open at 7:30 a.m.

Leslie heads to the gym, where she joins a growing number of students who gather there for supervised early-morning exercise — using basketballs, soccer balls, hula hoops, jump ropes and other types of exercise equipment that were purchased in November with a $5,000 Highmark Healthy High 5 School Challenge grant.

“It makes me feel better to get a chance to exercise rather than just sit in school all day,” Leslie said. “I like to play basketball and play with the hula hoops.”

With rates of childhood obesity on the rise, school officials say the grant, which was applied for by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, will support St. Thomas School’s participation in the Highmark Healthy High 5 SPARK program that aims to enhance a child's enjoyment of physical activity and instill a lifelong love of active recreation. SPARK is an acronym for Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids.

Interim Principal Marilyn Varrassa said the school has increased its recreation time for the 69 students in prekindergarten through grade eight at the school.

“We’ll do anything to provide more time for students to be active,” Varrassa said

Students like Leslie and John Love are taking advantage of the newly implemented supervised exercise time in the gym before school. The new equipment adds to the fun.

“We used to just sit at our desks and talk before school,” said John, who enjoys shooting some hoops with friends before classes begin. “Now we have time to play and get some exercise in the morning.”

Varrassa said students also have additional time to exercise during the school day.

See the Journal's Thursday, January 6th edition for full story.

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