ROCK HILL — When Caleigh Pigg learned that students at her school, Mount Holly Elementary, had the highest obesity rate of all Rock Hill elementary schools, the physical education teacher knew what she had to do: Get them moving.
She enlisted a platoon of parents, educators and fourth-graders who are working to raise money to build a track on campus, where students can walk and run.
When schools closed, anyone in the community would be allowed to use the track.
It was just to get our kids up and going, said Pigg, an avid runner.
Since Mount Holly students tend to come from rural parts of town, she said, a lot of kids dont have the opportunity to do something like this.
The district hasnt budgeted any money for the project, so the Mount Holly team is raising the money on its own.
It needs $40,000 to build a quarter-mile concrete track.
Thats the target, though organizers hope eventually to raise the additional $53,000 it would take to put a rubber surface on the track.
The school is hosting a meeting of local business owners Thursday, when a team of fourth-graders will present what it has learned about Americas obesity epidemic and how healthy lifestyle choices such as exercise can help people maintain healthy weights.
We hope they will give us the money so we can help more people exercise, said Alyssa McCurley, a fourth-grader.
All the work
Eat Smart, Move More York County, a group that advocates healthy lifestyles, started working with Rock Hill schools in the 2010-11 academic year to put together a snapshot of childrens health.
Gym teachers gathered weight and height measurements for third- and fourth-graders to calculate body mass index.
Eat Smart, Move More analyzed the data and found that across the district, nearly a quarter of third- and fourth-graders were obese.
Mount Holly topped the list, with 35 percent of third-graders and 36 percent of fourth-graders considered obese.
The following year, the third-grade obesity rate dipped to 28 percent, but fourth-grade obesity remained the same.
Were looking at the paper and Mount Hollys on the top, Pigg said.
I wanted to do something.
Mount Holly educators said they tried to act as soon as they heard the news in 2010.
But after formal letters to businesses yielded scant results, they decided to regroup.
Theyre back at it with help from the schools iTech club, 17 fourth-graders who stay after school to work on projects and lessons using iPads.
The children jumped on the track initiative, polling classmates with questions about lifestyle choices and whether they were interested in a track.
They questioned parents lined up to drop off students at school.
Students researched the benefits of exercising and the realities of Americas weight problems and plan to lead Thursdays presentation and pitch to business owners and potential donors.
Were doing all the work, Alyssa said.
Mount Hollys School Improvement Council, made up mostly of parent volunteers, also is spreading the word.
Our country is in a health care crisis, said Leslie Jurado, an SIC member who has two children attending Mount Holly.
We need to be educating our kids on how to take care of themselves.
School officials hope potential donors see the projects value.
This has a direct relationship to both physical education and academics, Mount Holly Principal Chris Beard said.
Were excited about the kids being involved, Assistant Principal Nakia Barnes said. They have really taken the lead.
The children are excited, too.
Val Mohaugen, 9, wants a track so we can exercise and run around.
And maybe, students hope, a new track might score them more time than the standard 20-minute recess.
I would like an hour recess, fourth-grader Jessica James said.
Shawn Cetrone 803-329-4072