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Toledo's Leverette Middle school on Health Watch


Leverette Middle School students, including seventh-graders Latesha Craig, 13, Cierra Moran, 12, and Mahalia Middlebrooks, 13, from left, cheer on their teammates as they race to the finish line during the kickoff in the gym yesterday.

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It started with the girls basketball coach at Leverette Middle School encouraging his athletes to make healthy eating and exercise choices in preparation for games.

That has evolved into a schoolwide challenge for students and staff to be on Health Watch, a focus on making healthy lifestyle choices.

"We're going to hold you to a higher standard, and we're going to expect you to hold us to a higher standard," Leverette Principal Steve Riddle said to students gathered yesterday for a kickoff assembly in the gymnasium.

As part of the challenge, more than 80 of the school's 105 staff members have signed up for the new enrichment program that encourages healthy eating and exercise.

A few weeks ago, each participating staff member was weighed and their body fat was calculated by Total Nutrition, a Toledo-based personal fitness company.

At the end of the spirited kickoff yesterday, staff members were divided into six groups to compete in a weight loss challenge loosely modeled after the NBC television show, The Biggest Loser.

"Exercise, health, and fitness is a team sport," said Roxanne Hammond, owner of

Lifestyles Behind the Game, a bimonthly magazine that promotes healthy lifestyles for athletes beyond competition.

The staff members also were given an individualized eating plan to help them shed pounds en route to better health.

"I guess I'll try to do some of the stuff," said Grant Rayfield, a special education teacher at the school. "I'm a pretty picky eater. I think I just want to be a little more healthy."

Quinsey Hammond, Roxanne's brother and the girls basketball coach at Leverette, is aiming to lose 50 pounds by the Super Bowl, which is Feb. 1.

In addition to staff members, about 20 student-athletes at the school already have accepted the challenge. Other students in the school of about 590 will be able to sign up, starting next week.

To help kick off the challenge, some students and staff members were matched up during the assembly to compete in a healthy relay: eat two orange slices, do three jumping jacks and two sit-ups, jump rope five times, eat a small cup of cauliflower - which was clearly the most difficult task - do two push-ups, take a drink of water, and then run back to the start and tag the next person.

"The cauliflower is dry and nasty," said Mahalia Middlebrooks, 13, a Leverette seventh-grader who participated in the relay challenge.

Her scrunched facial expression reinforced her words after spitting the excess in a trash can once she had tagged the next person on the relay team.

Students are encouraged to hold staff members accountable if they see them drinking soda, biting into a burger, or making other less-than-healthy choices. Staff, including workers in the cafeteria, are encouraged to do the same with the students.

"Instead of eating pizza every day, hey, throw a salad in there once in a while," Mr. Riddle said.

For Franciss Lockett, 13, an eighth grader at Leverette, the plan seems pretty simple.

"Eat healthy food. Watch my weight. Exercise. Drink lots of water, and be strong," she said.

Contact James Joyce III at:

or 419-724-6076.

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