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Woburn Memorial High School Embraces the Social Side of Wellness

Woburn Memorial High School, Woburn, MA

School Contact: Diane Ivester

Getting Started

When you’re a kid, what’s bigger or more important than how you feel about yourself? Through the Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP), “Students have the opportunity to improve on their results, which boosts their self-esteem,” said one of the school’s wellness teachers, Adam Lapon. Adam, along with Diane Ivester, who runs the Wellness Department at Woburn, credits PYFP for helping so many young people make an effort to be healthier, and also be excited about the process. Excitement is contagious. “It [PYFP] helps us confirm what we’ve been advocating all along, that physical education is more than just ‘gym’ — it’s taking care of the whole child physically and mentally. Overall, it’s a positive experience that puts smiles on all of the teachers’ faces,” said Diane.

The flourishing health and wellness community at Woburn Memorial sparked through PYFP’s funding opportunities. Before, teachers at the school tested students’ fitness, but they wanted FitnessGram® software to help track students’ progress. So, Woburn Memorial applied for and received three-years of funding to implement the program at the school. The 2014-2015 school year marked the second year of PYFP. According to Diane, PYFP afforded “the opportunity [for wellness teachers] to get together as a department, and gave us the experience we needed to become better wellness instructors,” while also earning the teachers Continuing Education Credits to renew teaching licenses.

Up and Running

For Diane and the team at Woburn Memorial, the impact of PYFP is greater than the sum of its parts. “Anything that promotes health awareness for students to become mindful of their own fitness level is a step in the right direction,” she said. Teachers use recognition to empower students, who share their results with one another, teachers, and parents.

Diane has even seen this sharing encourage some of her shyer, less vocal students to interact with their peers. Danielle, a sophomore at Woburn Memorial, said PYFP helped her “talk to other kids in my class about how they did on their fitness testing.” According to Diane, Danielle wouldn’t have done so otherwise.

“We like the program because it facilitates the development of lifelong habits, and I am all about the social part of wellness,” said Diane. “If you just observe what’s going on, students are really supportive of one another and encouraging.”

What Comes Next

A self-proclaimed “P.E. geek,” Diane is amped up and ready to start year three. Woburn Memorial will teach the students how to use the tools, such as videos, available through PYFP. In-person demonstrations can also help teachers show students how to measure on their own time, in a way that’s meaningful to them. Students who aren’t as interested in PYFP’s certificates and more formal recognition may prefer the responsibility of tracking personal progress and seeing their results improve through the data. Diane said, “Sharing information with your students promotes sharing information with families. It gives them the time that they need to stop their busy lives, and capture their parents’ attention.”

Every school has unique challenges, but perhaps most special to Diane and the entire Wellness team at Woburn Memorial is that “PYFP gives the students opportunities to learn lifelong lessons. And as teachers, that’s what we’re here to do — help students prepare for life.”