#beActivePlus Day 9/8/18

    

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By Jessica Militello

     As kids started getting back into their school routines in September, members and volunteers for Active Plus gathered to host an event for both adults and elementary middle school kids to raise money and awareness toward their organization’s mission of promoting healthy eating and being physically active.

    “#beActivePlus Day” was held on Saturday, September 8, and began at 10am in the Dodge Fitness Center of Columbia University in Manhattan. The morning consisted of adult classes held by two certified personal trainers from Equinox, which featured a high intensity interval class and a core conditioning class. Over 50 adults showed up and paid a suggested donation in order to participate.

From there, the focus of the event transitioned toward 40 students from schools in East Harlem and the Bronx to participate in a basketball clinic, nutrition workshops, fitness activities organized by Equinox trainers, and a salad preparation demo. Adults who showed up for the morning classes helped out with the activities of the event.

Encouraging adults to engage in the event’s activities were an integral trait of showing donor’s what the organization is all about according to Tarik Kitson, Active Plus’ Executive Director.

“Anyone who donated that day or throughout the year had the chance to see who we are, the people that we work with and gave them an opportunity to meet our board of directors and volunteers,” said Kitson. “They saw the quality of our events and the top instructors we work with.”

 Despite this being the organization’s first ever “#beActivePlus Day” they were able to garner support from over 30 sponsors including EY, Equinox, Health Ade, HCDC and Harmless Harvest. The organization sought to make a point of seeking out sponsorship from companies that otherwise may not have targeted young boys and girls from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx as their intended audience.

The non-profit organization also intended to make the students they work with familiar with healthier brands of food and beverages and to develop an association when they see these brands so that they may continue to make healthier choices on their own. Ultimately, Active Plus desired to create a lasting memory of a positive experience for students in addition to instilling positive and healthy fitness and nutritional habits.

Another event highlight  was the raffle drawing and student awards. The best all around camper award went to a young girl and was awarded a new bicycle.

  “#beActivePlus Day” proved to be successful in both its initiative and fundraising. The organization raised approximately $14,500 dollars which will go toward fitness programming during the school year, a new cooking class for the Young Women’s Leadership School in East Harlem, and fitness classes for special needs students in the Bronx.

As for the students who participated in “#beActivePlus Day” were certainly successful in providing an experience that was as memorable as it was exciting.

“This program is fun,” said Kevin, 13. “They got you doing everything; exercise, basketball drills, I’m having a great time.”

Following the success of “#beActivePlus Day,” Active Plus will be teaming up with the Rotary Club of Harlem for their next major event called, “Food for the Soul 2018.” This is a food packaging event that will be held on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at the Salvation Army Harlem Temple Corps. They have a goal of packaging over 20,000 meals for local Harlem food pantries, surpassing last year’s results of packaging 17,000 meals.



Fitness Apparel Company Giving Back to Community

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Lavish Lifting is a brand new fitness apparel company based in Brooklyn, New York with a cause driven mission to inspire more people to develop and stick to long term fitness regimens. Lavish Lifting supports Active Plus' endeavors to equip youth with the tools and equipment to be able to appreciate the value of fitness and nutrition being essential components of living life to the fullest. Lavish Lifting will be donating a portion of their proceeds to Active Plus because of the overlap that exists in mission and vision. We look forward to fostering a strong relationship with Lavish Lifting far into the future. "Don't just lift, lift lavishly." 

Making Sure Health And Nutrition Is On Your Child's Back to School List.

By Jessica Militello

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It’s only been a few weeks since schools dismissed their students for summer break. In the midst of heat waves and beach days, parents may be more focused on making sure their kids are wearing enough sunscreen than their child’s physical education classes from the school year.  But Active Plus, an organization that teaches fitness and nutrition to kids in New York City, are already looking to the approaching school year to improve statistics in an education system that has consistently failed to provide even the minimum requirement of physical education for students.

 According to a June 2017 report from the New York Lawyers for Public Interest (NYLPI), “On average, only 20% of third graders in New York City are receiving 120 minutes of instruction per week, the required amount of physical education instruction.” While this issue affects all students, the 2017 study revealed that Black and Hispanic students overwhelmingly suffer the most. According to NYLPI, “an average of 19% of Black students and 25% of Hispanic students grades K-5 received the required amount of PE instruction.” Ranked by borough, the report revealed that students in the Bronx had the lowest rates of compliance. 

Erin Medina has a 5-year-old son who attends PS 14 in the Bronx. Their physical education classes meet sparingly. A group not related to the school comes once a month to teach students about healthy eating. 

“They do have Phys ed classes for the children. I believe it was once a week for about 40 minutes, which is not a lot now that I think of it,” says Medina. “They do have a group come and they teach kids about healthy eating. My son is a picky eater so I was really happy when he came home one day and asked me to buy carrots.”

According to a report from NYC Health, “1 in 5 kindergarten students have diabetes and almost half of all elementary school children are not a healthy weight.” In addition to poor nutritional health, schools often have little to no physical education. 59% of schools lack PE instructors that are certified, according to a report by the New York City Comptroller in 2015. 

Wilkins Petitfrere, a certified personal trainer and strength coach in NYC, explains how a lack of education in nutrition early on is a detriment to a child’s health.

“School food is not nutritional and many times kids don’t want to eat it, so they go to the store and buy snacks like chips and candy,” says Petitfrere. “They’re hyped up off the sugar they had at lunch, and they’re not burning it off. Ultimately their blood sugar spikes which causes high insulin levels and leads to diabetes.” 

Petitfrere elaborates on the negative effects that take place in the long term as a result. 

“Learning bad habits is a long-term process. There’s 16-year old teens who have never been active. They never had gym class and no one talked to them about a healthy diet,” says Petitfrere. “We live in a digital age that is increasingly sedentary with unhealthy mentalities. Social media portrays celebrities, and teens want to know how to look like them. Many times, they are promoting unhealthy products like tummy tea and diet pills.”

In 2015, in response to these troubling statistics, Tarik Kitson founded Active Plus with Miguel Roxas in order to address the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is plaguing the boroughs of New York City. The non-profit organization offers programs for both children and adults. It places an emphasis on programs for children such as sports and nutritional workshops to teach kids healthy eating habits early on. By doing so they present a noble effort to tackle childhood obesity and diabetes statistics. 

Providing regular physical activity is not only important to a child’s physical health but it also plays a major role in their mental health and self-esteem. According to The American Heart Association, a recommended minimum of at least an hour of daily physical activity has been linked to “an improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem.”

Dahlia Vidal, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher at IS 10 in Queens feels that regular and consistent physical activity has a positive side effect on how her students learn in school.

“Having students physically engage daily does have a positive effect on their overall mental health,” says Vidal. “They are able to show more resilience when they are tackling a critical problem if they are in a good mood. They perform better in the long-run because it decreases stress and we want our students to learn in an open and stress-free environment.”

In 2017, in response to reports of New York City public schools lacking space for physical education classes and often failing to meet the required minimum of physical activity, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan called the “Universal Physical Education initiative” stating the city will invest $385 million dollars. He plans for every public school in New York City to have adequate gym space and certified physical education instructors by 2021.

While we wait for the results of the mayor’s efforts, Active Plus will continue its noble efforts of providing much needed health and nutrition to schools among the New York City boroughs. As the new school year faithfully approaches, healthy habits are necessary as quickly as possible in order to implement positive change for our youth. 

Medina feels for some children, hearing advice from an expert makes them more receptive to absorb information than their own parents.

“Sometimes children don’t want to listen to their parents but they listen to these smart people that go into the school and they have more effective teaching techniques,” says Medina. “I think if it’s in the school curriculum and it’s incorporated daily it could certainly influence them in a positive way and help keep them healthy.”

 

http://www.nylpi.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Leveling_playing_field_v10.pdf

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/obesity.page

https://comptroller.nyc.gov/reports/dropping-the-ball-disparities-in-physical-education-in-new-york-city

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyKids/ActivitiesforKids/The-AHAs-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp#.W097xPZFzIU

https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/390-17/mayor-de-blasio-speaker-mark-viverito-chancellor-fari-a-universal-physical-education#/0

Are your Kids Receiving Enough Physical Activity?

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 Many people believe all school systems and programs in New York City must be incredible. After all, we do live in the Big Apple, a place where millions of people from all over the globe flock to in all seasons. However, this is a huge misconception, and falsehood. For instance, New York City schools are slowly making progress, but still coming up short complying with physical education standards. Unfortunately, schools across all five boroughs are floundering to meet the most minimal physical education offerings, as required by the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) regulations. For example, almost 1/3 of students in NYC did not receive the state-mandated minimum number of gym classes for this past school year.

In reality, students in grades K-12 must take part in regular physical education classes by an accredited teacher, or classroom teacher, under direct supervision of a certified physical education teacher for grades K-6. Middle and high schoolers must receive instruction directly from a certified physical education teacher. New York State law requires that elementary school-age children receive two hours a week of physical education whereas middle and high school students are supposed to get ninety minutes. Interestingly enough, NYC has never been reprimanded for failing to stipulate those minimums. Nevertheless, the public school’s shortage of gym classes has been a recurring issue. This is especially unfortunate considering the fact that it has been proven “consistent and meaningful physical education is known to bolster academic achievement and engagement in school” (Stringer, 2). U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized how proper health is not merely a surplus to a good education. It is a necessity so that students are healthy and prepared to learn and “are better able to engage in the classroom and excel academically” (Stringer, 2). Nowhere is this more accurate than in NYC, where more than 26% of students aged 5-14 in Kindergarten through 8th grade (K-8) are either overweight or severely obese (Stringer, 3).

As evidenced above, providing physical education to some 1 million odd students in a city as crowded as New York City is a substantial challenge. Because of the city’s density, many schools lack “physical fitness spaces” (Stringer, 3). Extraordinarily, 435 NYC schools (28%) “lack a dedicated physical fitness space” – a problem that is most serious for middle and high schools” (Stringer, 3). In addition, approximately 506 schools  “lack a full-time, certified physical education teacher” (Stringer, 3); this includes 59% of elementary schools, 17% of middle schools, and 8% of high schools. While certain schools “may have access to a part-time, accredited PE teacher,” the Department of Education failed to provide data that would confirm this (Stringer, 3). On top of this, 149 schools (about 10%) lack “both a full-time, certified physical education teacher and a physical fitness space” (Stringer, 3).

This information reaffirms the fact that for years the Department of Education has been unsuccessful in providing up physical education programs and instruction that is up to par to all students in NYC. For instance, an elementary and middle school for gifted children called TAG Young Scholars in East Harlem does not possess a gym teacher for its elementary school students (Baker, 2). And, next year, one of the four schools that share TAG’s building is expanding, which will further on their one and only gym.

For the most part, schools blame budget cuts as a result of the lacking physical education in NYC. Many reference pressures to devote multiple resources to test preparation above all else, which is what “one union leader called a lack of interest from the department headquarters” (Baker, 3). One elementary school making headway and breaking down walls is Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders, in the Bronx, “where Ronny Rodriguez, a physical education instructor, ran 12 students through a rigorous 50-minute class one day last month” (Baker, 3).

Mayor De Blasio hopes to make strides with NYC’s physical education programs in schools through a new, innovative initiative called PE Works. In doing so, Mayor De Blasio has committed $100 million dollars to expanding PE curriculum and ensuring certified teachers are present at every public school (Baker, 3). PE Works was first implemented at PS 33 in Queens Village in September. "I've already seen an increase in the children working as teams as well as their self esteem being lifted," said Vincent Gatto, the school’s principal (Baker, 4). In addition, professional PE experts have been visiting with other schools to provide further training and establish personalized action plans to get students up and moving.

Steven Sedlmaier, a fellow PE teacher said, "Physical education teaches you life long skills not just reading, math, and science," (Baker, 4). Vincent Gatto emphasized how this next generation is growing up in a world where all they need to do is push a button to get just about anything they could possibly need or desire (Baker, 4). "Life is not about pushing buttons. Life is about movement, life is about succeeding, and life is about overcoming a hurdle," a very profound statement from PS 33’s principal (Baker, 4).




 

 

 

Healthy Snacking

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The Importance of Making Healthy Snacking

Did you know that over 30% of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese? (1) Obesity poses a serious threat and long term health issues that can follow into adulthood and lead to a variety of diseases. Obesity results from a of lack of proper nutrition and being influenced by advertisements and marketing tactics that target children and young adults to consume processed, sugary foods. Today, we will explore how and why there is an obesity epidemic in the United States along with the health concerns that arise as a result. We will also discuss the necessary steps we can take to prevent consuming foods that will cause illness in the future.

Why is it that over 30% of the youth in the U.S. is headed down the road of illness? A road, that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will potentially lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, and even psychological problems like depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. (2) Let’s take a look at one of the leading causes of over consumption of sugary, processed snacks: Advertisements. Children between the ages of 8-18 are exposed to various kinds of media, social media, video games and television that advertise highly processed foods. (3) Think back to watching your favorite TV show or the Super Bowl. These programs are generally interrupted by a commercial, persuading you to purchase a food that looks absolutely delicious on the television screen.

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Think about it- you’ve definitely seen commercials for the snacks that you find yourself reaching for in the grocery store. Foods and drinks like Starburst, Cheetos, Doritos, and Pepsi are just a few of the hundreds of items advertised on the news that are partially to blame for our country's obesity epidemic. Marketing tactics like catchy slogans and jingles, and visuals of perfectly crisp potato chips that make consumers drool and crave their product. Companies use these tactics to deceive our population into consume unhealthy foods without warnings of the long term effects.

The obesity epidemic is also a result of the lack of knowledge surrounding the consequences of consuming highly processed and sugary foods. Corporations do their best to mask the true health costs of consuming their products. Studies shows that the trend of children choosing chips, cookies and sweets on an average of about three times a day (4) proves that the effect of advertising has been mounting for decades. The United States Department of Agriculture, states that the snacks children consume provide about 37% of their daily energy, but only about 15%-30% of the necessary nutrients. (1) Overweight children consume about 1000 more calories per day than what’s required. (3) What tactics can we implement that will prevent an increase in the obesity epidemic in our children and ourselves?

The first step is to make mindful choices with our food and become well versed on the effects of consuming sugary and processed foods. Eating foods like fruits, dried fruits, yogurt and nuts are all much healthier options than chips, cookies or candy. Snacking on healthier alternatives not only make you feel better in the present, but will help you maintain optimal health in the long term as well. Other options for maintaining a healthy weight and body include getting about 30-minutes of exercise per day. Adapting healthier food and lifestyle habits might seem challenging but it is important to keep your long term health goals in mind. Together we can fight one of America’s biggest health problems, and prevent it negatively affecting our communities.  

Surena Harinath

References:

1) Snacking for a Cause: Nutritional Insufficiencies and Excesses of U.S. Children, a Critical Review of Food Consumption Patterns and Macronutrient and Micronutrient Intake of U.S. Children

Julie Hess and Joanne Slavin
 

2) https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/causes.html

3)NCCOR Childhood Obesity in United States http://www.nccor.org/downloads/ChildhoodObesity_020509.pdf

4)Health Affairs By Carmen Piernas and Barry M. Popkin

Trends In Snacking Among U.S. Children

Olympic Day

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On Tuesday August 8th Active Plus volunteered their services at the NYC Mission Society Olympic Day at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. Active Plus was responsible for operating the fitness stations such as kickball, steal the bacon, relay races, baseball and other fun activities. Active Plus provided over 25 volunteers to accommodate the 800 energized students. 

Active Plus Yoga Program

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This past Spring and Summer Active Plus created a Yoga and Mindfulness Program with community partners at the Salvation Army and NYC Mission Society.  The program worked with approximately twenty students for 12 weeks. This program hopes to improve students’ behavior, mental state, health, and performance, as well as teacher resilience, effectiveness and overall classroom climate. We hope to continue working with these Harlem community partners for years to come. 

Active Plus Two Year Anniversary

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For those who attended and/or donated to Active Plus for their Two Year Anniversary celebration on May 5th, 2017 we would like to thank you for the support!  We are proud to have surpassed our goal by reaching over 1,000 youth and adolescence in Harlem since the start of 2017. Your support has supported a new yoga and meditation program which we launched this spring and we’re also excited about our collaborations with Young Women’s Leadership School, Salvation Army and Sojourner Truth School. 

We are currently gearing up for an exciting 2017-2018 academic year and are truly grateful for the out pour of support from our friends and family.

Thanks again for the support!

 

New Yorker of the Week

We would like to congratulate Active Plus boxing instructor Reese Scott on being named New Yorker of the Week. Reese was recognized for the work she has done with our young women at Young Women Leadership School in East Harlem. Click HERE for the full story on NY1.com.

When it comes to learning how to box, our New Yorker of the Week is making sure women across the city don't get counted out. NY1's John Schiumo introduces us.

Combat and dance; boxing uses strength, rhythm, and movement. And for young women at the city's first boxing gym just for women, it offers so much more.

"It feels like all this power within is finally coming out," participant Allissa Roman said. "That all this hidden strength I had is — it's just empowering, empowering as a woman."

Standing in their corner is Reese Scott, the founder of the East Harlem gym, Women's World of Boxing.

"I got into boxing about 13 years ago. I was almost 220 pounds, very overweight, very depressed, very low self-esteem," Reese said. "I knew that the boxing gym was my happy place. It was the place where I wasn't sad. It was the place where I felt on top of the world."

Today, Reese provides free clinics to teenagers at schools and non-profits throughout the five boroughs.

On the morning we interviewed her, she was mentoring 11th and 12th graders at The Young Women's Leadership School in East Harlem.

"I wasn't allowed to do certain things, because I was a girl. That didn't make any sense to me," Reese said. "They need an outlet. They need to know that there's a safe space where they can go, they can release, they can talk without being judged."

"She tells us that she's struggled coming up and that she was talked about and bullied, and to see her now as a strong, independent woman and an woman boxer, it's very inspirational for us," participant Chasidy Forbes said.

With every jab, the young New Yorkers at the gym gain a sense of pride and the courage to push for something better.

"You may not be perfect the first time you do it, but as you keep practicing and trying it you get better," 17-year-old participant Milly Dilone said.

"I'm actually going to join her boxing group soon," Roman said. "She's very motivating. She really tells you to put your mind to things, and when she tells me that, I just keep going, I keep striving to do more for her."

"We are hope, and we're not lost, and we have each other, and everything is possible," Reese said.

And so, for giving women a fighting chance, Reese Scott is our New Yorker of the Week.

Active Plus Healthy Harlem

 Local Interest: HARLEM SCHOOL MAKES HEALTHY LIVING A TOP PRIORITY

HARLEM, New York, May 21, 2016 - The Rotary Club of Harlem, Sojourner Truth School, Harlem Children’s Zone and more team up to provide an unprecedented day of interactive health workshops for students and parents in the Harlem community. “Healthy Harlem” was the first of its kind and a huge success as dozens of students; grades K-8 and their parents gathered at Sojourner Truth School to learn the fundamentals of living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. All attendees were treated to breakfast, lunch, giveaways; and a series of informative, educational and fun-filled sessions to help transform the way we think about health and wellness.

Active Plus, a Harlem-based 501(c) 3 non-profit specializing in working with students in the community, through sports & recreation, provided a unique set of fitness activities for the children to stimulate their minds and bodies. The children were taught the need for staying active and learned quick, exciting exercises that make fitness fun. After morning fitness the children attended the next session, to engage in an interactive workshop on nutrition and healthy eating. Each child was able to assist in the preparation of a tasty salad containing fruits, nuts, and vegetables. They were excited to learn how to identify healthy meal options and the effects of those foods on the body.

While the children were learning about nutrition, their parents were able to be enlightened on the ever changing world of substance abuse and its causes. S.A.F.E in Harlem, a non-profit organization leading the charge for a drug free Harlem, led an authentic discussion about how students can protect themselves from the potentially dangerous influences of social and peer pressure. Parents were equipped with the tools to identify warning signs of substance abuse in their households and resources to get the help they may need. Harlem Hospital Family Planning Clinic and The Half Full Institute provided vital information on hygiene, stress management, and reproductive health. The 1st Annual “Healthy Harlem”, coordinated by The Rotary Club of Harlem, a community service organization was a huge hit among all the attendees. The Rotary Club also gave away hundreds of brand new Scholastic reading books for families to take home. The day was capped off and made even more special by a raffle prize awarded to one lucky student and his family. Ideacoil.com, an online feedback platform donated two tickets to “Aladdin” on Broadway.

Contactrotaryclubofharlem@gmail.comactiveplusnyc@gmail.comldelly@ideacoil.comfpullen@lets-talk-safety.orgvanessa.autin@nychhc.org, to learn more.

Active Plus at the Susie Cause Cancer Foundation Health Festival

The Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation, Inc. (“Susie’s Cause”) teamed up with Harlem Hospital and others to provide the local community with a free day of health education, with a particular focus on colon cancer screening and prevention, alongside performances from local arts groups and entertainers on Saturday, June 4, 2016, at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building Plaza in Harlem.

The Harlem Outreach Health Festival is the second stop on a 10-city health festival tour organized by Susie’s Cause, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization dedicated to colon cancer prevention, treatment, and support services. The festivals are specifically designed to provide colon cancer education to underserved communities, in which colon cancer diagnoses and deaths occur at an alarmingly high rate. 

In addition to colon cancer education, the Harlem Outreach Health Festival  offered free health screenings, healthy lifestyle exhibits, fitness demonstrations courtesy of Shape Up NYC and the YMCA, giveaways, and face painting. 

In attendance are representatives from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; Gilda’s Club New York City; Cancer Care; Shape Up NYC and the Harlem YMCA; the New York City Department for the Aging; Circle of Love, a cancer support group; and Active Plus. The festival’s national sustaining sponsor is Lilly Oncology.