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Health / 2013

Ready Set Gold!: A Students Guide to a Lifetime of Fitness

Ready Set Gold!: A Students Guide to a Lifetime of Fitness

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games (SCCOG)

Ready, Set, Gold!, (RSG!) the only program of its kind in the country, tackles the epidemic problems of childhood obesity and diabetes by pairing Olympians and Paralympians with 50 Los Angeles area public schools, 96% of which are Title 1 in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The RSG! mission is to increase the state-mandated Fitnessgram scores and promote student fitness, nutrition and a healthy lifetime lifestyle in the 5th, 7th and 9th grade physical education classes which are required to take the Fitnessgram test annually. Each Olympian/Paralympian is matched to a specific school and meets with their students five - six times during the school year to inspire, educate, empower, and motivate them toward a long and healthy life. Like tobacco cessation and seat belt use, this is a long-term problem we are addressing. According to the LA Department of Public Health in 2007, over 440,500 of LAUSD's 5th, 7th and 9th graders were obese (having too much body fat). Obese children have a greater likelihood of developing risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease which often follow children into adulthood. Some populations are at higher risk: low-income individuals, African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans which reflect the LAUSD student population: 73% Latino, 11% Black/African, 9% White, 4% Asian and 3% American Indian/Native American. In addition to the above health disparities, LAUSD has cut back on physical education (PE) in elementary schools, decreased the number of credentialed PE teachers and increased PE class sizes to 40-50-60 students. RSG! was designed to supplement and operate in existing PE classes for the 5th, 7th and 9th graders with teachers and Olympians providing the encouragement and drive to be knowledgeable about health, fitness and nutrition as important elements toward a long and healthy life. What starts in these early years imparts a commitment to a permanent and enduring dedication to high-quality health as a responsibility.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

1) The only program of its kind in the country

2) a public private partnership between the LAUSD and the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games; this partnership works to restore diminishing needed services in the public sector at a time when the current state budget reduces education funding

3) Reaching approximately 25,000 students annually at no charge to the schools.

4) A direct services mentoring program in-school model; we reach the students in class where we have some control over their participation.

5) In the first 3 years of the program for those schools participating in RSG!, LAUSD’s latest data demonstrated a 41% increase in students passing the California state-mandated physical fitness tests aka Fitnessgram which represents minimum levels of fitness that offer protection against the diseases that result from sedentary living.

Current program outcomes for the 2011-2012 school year show that more than 50% of students that RSG! reached passed at least 5 out of 6 Fitnessgram exercises.

6) Recognized by Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, February, 2012

7) Honored at the LA City Council: September, ‘08 and June, ‘09

8) Recognized by the LAUSD Board of Education, October, 2008

9) Nominated for the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness & Sports Award for Organizations

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Community-based partners include the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles Mayor’s office, Green Dot Public Schools, the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) - the Mayor’s program, USC Family of Schools, the Inner City Education Foundation Schools (ICEF), the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, the Los Angeles Sports Council, Samsung, Los Angeles Police Department Southeast Division, and the Loyola Marymount Family of Schools.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Quantitatively, RSG! measures the outcomes of our work by the annual Fitnessgram (state-mandated physical fitness test) test results taken by the 5th, 7th and 9th graders at the schools RSG! targets. Current program outcomes show that more than 50% of students that RSG! reached passed at least 5 out of 6 Fitnessgram exercises, i.e., upper body strength, aerobic capacity, curl-up, trunk lift, flexibility and body mass index.

Qualitatively, RSG! participants (teacher, student and Olympian) give us testimonials; here is a sample; spelling and grammar have been kept in their original form.

Teacher: Christine Berni Ramos, Elizabeth Learning Center on Olympian Kelly Mitchell:

“Kelly (Mitchell) you are the best, I can see the 5th graders motivation and smiles when they are with you from a distance”

Calabash Elementary Student: “Before the ready,set, gold! program I could not even do a single push up and now I can do 3. I say that the best part was meating David Brinton a olimpian of cyling. Another thing is the running. Before I was a running turtle, and now I’m a running cheetah.”

Olympian: Becky Kim at John Mack Elementary, “The students at John Mack EL were just amazing! So prepared and ready to listen! It was a delight speaking to these group of students!! I had so much fun with them. They were so engaged and asked a lot of questions as well.”

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

RSG! has already benefited Los Angeles - see the results below in evaluating our project quantitatively and qualitatively.

RSG! reaches approximately 500 students/school (500 x 50 schools = 25,000 annually). It serves as a continual reminder that the 42 Olympians/Paralympians participating in the program and ranging in age from 20 years old to 72 years old are healthy lifelong models for students in fighting the epidemics of diabetes and obesity because they are the examples of healthy living habits and not diabetic or obese.

RSG! is a reminder of the pride people felt in 1984 when we held our second Olympics here in Los Angeles; as I travel throughout Los Angeles, those who were here in ‘84, always have a story to tell on their volunteering, going to an event, and no traffic! And now Mayor Villaraigosa has tossed our city hat into the ring to host another Olympics in 2024. Who wouldn’t want another one after London’s successfully hosting their third Olympics.

And there’s a young man or woman in school now who will be propelled to be an Olympian because of what is set down in LA at this time and become like Olympian David Brinton (‘88–cycling) who was motivated by watching the Olympics when he was 9 years old or seeing Olympian Paul Gonzales (‘84–Boxing) the first Mexican-American to win a Gold medal.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

1) Ready, Set, Gold! in all LAUSD schools; there are approximately 700 LAUSD schools; Southern California has 800-900 Olympians who could cover them. We have a proven model that recruits them: word of mouth and their professional organization: the Southern California Committee of Olympians/Paralympians.

2) A full time staff to implement and execute the program above; right now we have a full-time program director and a part-time program manager for 50 schools; the ratio of monitoring the schools is 1:25 schools. So for 700 schools, we would need 28 people at today’s current number.

3) Tracking and measuring the impact on students over a 20-25 year period; what did they learn and take away from the RSG! experience that stayed with them after the program. We have some anecdotal information now; yet we need to measure. We will continue with the Cal State LA professor we have now to design and outline a program and using that information, develop knowledge and keep the ideas that work and replace any that don’t and add new ones. We will also consult with kinesiology professionals and use their experience.