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Skipping to the beat

Williston students raise $20,000 during Jump Rope for Heart 

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

If you see Lyn Porter in the hallway at Allen Brook

Williston students (from left to right) Mia O’Farrell, Sydney Glickman, Eryn Erdman, Audrey Dimella, Callahan Freeman, Adele Jennings, Mykayla O’Farrell and Sabina Brochu put the ‘Y’ in the Village People’s ‘YMCA’ at last Friday’s Jump Rope for Heart event at Allen Brook School. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

School, don’t ask her what time gym class starts.

“Who’s Jim?” she’ll likely reply. “I teach phys ed.”

Although Porter has a broad sense of humor, she’s deadly serious when it comes to the importance of educating kids about heart health.

“PE has changed. We’ve got the education in physical education now,” Porter said. “With a lot of schools not having a specific health educator, physical education is picking up the role of education with fitness, nutrition and heart health.”

Perhaps the best example of the convergence of the physical and educational aspects of PE at Allen Brook and Williston Central schools came last week with the annual Jump Rope for Heart event – a national collaboration between the American Heart Association and the verbosely acronymed AAHPERD (American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) that promotes heart health through exercise.

On the morning of March 30, Williston students packed the ABS gymnasium for over two hours of dance music-inspired rope skipping that got their hearts pumping.

Second-grader Myleigh Kilbon, who won the speed rope contest last year, said she and her friend Erin Marino took top honors in this year’s partner contest.

“It was awesome. We actually learned some new skills today,” said Kilbon, who is also a member of the Parisi Speed School in Williston. “I like jump roping with my friend Erin. She’s good at jump roping.”

Jennifer Oakes, a physical education teacher at WCS, said she prepared students for the event by teaching them proper jump roping technique and its associated health benefits.

“We really want them to understand why jumping rope is good for you. This is all about your heart,” said Oakes. “We want the children, at an early age, to understand that exercise is wonderful for your heart, as long as you know how to do it correctly and you have the other pieces in place – such as eating healthy, sleeping and having a positive attitude about life. We want them to become ambassadors of good health to the community.”

Russell Beilke, youth market director for the American Heart Association in Williston, said that while national movements such as the National Football League’s “Keep Gym in School” campaign and first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” program have latched onto the Jump Rope for Heart concept, WCS (prior to splitting off ABS as a separate school) was a pioneer in the promotion of the event 30 years ago.

“Williston was one of the earlier schools,” Beilke said. “In talking to PE teachers, this is something that once they do it the first time, kids will be asking for it.”

Williston students raised over $20,000 for the American Heart Association during this year’s event, but Oakes said that even more important than the donations is the message behind the money.

“It’s not all about raising the money; it’s all about sending the message,” said Oakes. “With the obesity concerns that we have in this country, we want children to be exercising. As physical educators, we want them to find something they enjoy, so that they will continue to be active.”