Seventh graders in Toledo Public Schools have a new option for keeping healthy and occupied when classes finish.
A program begun yesterday gives all seventh graders in the district free access to six Toledo YMCA facilities after school during the week. The initiative includes free transportation for students on TARTA buses from their schools to partner YMCAs.
The participating Ys are Eastern, South Y at the Morse Center, Wayman Palmer, West, Summit, and Wolf Creek.
In a news conference at the Wayman D. Palmer Community YMCA announcing the "Strong Teens Program," TPS and YMCA executives heralded it as a way to tackle the nationwide problem of childhood obesity and diabetes.
"Our whole goal in this is to provide a healthy outlet for kids, a safe outlet for kids to develop healthier lifestyles," said Todd Tibbits, CEO and President of the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.
TPS superintendent John Foley said the program added balance to the students' academic studies and would improve their school performance. He said many after-school programs don't cater to seventh graders, and the new program would provide them with more options.
"I think we know that healthy kids do better in school. They're going to be more active and more fit and hopefully more alert at school," Mr. Foley said. "By being in a social setting [after school], by being able to do fitness programs and things, they're going to be better students."
Between 500 and 700 students could participate in the program, Mr. Foley estimated.
Mr. Tibbits said the partnership is based on a similar program in New York City. He said it made sense for the YMCA to partner with Toledo Public Schools because they have worked together on previous initiatives. The program eventually could be expanded to other grades or other school districts, he said.
"Being the YMCA of Greater Toledo, we figured to start with our core which is in the city of Toledo," Mr. Tibbits said. "This is a pilot, this is a start, and we figured this was the best place to start."
Students will have full access to the YMCA's services and facilities, including fitness equipment, weights, pool tables, and swimming pools where available. There may also be opportunities for them to participate in team sports, including basketball and volleyball, Mr. Tibbits said. Each middle school will be matched with a YMCA in its area.
Eager to get started on the program at the Palmer Community YMCA on North 14th Street yesterday was 14-year-old Louis Grier of Jones Middle School.
He said he normally would be playing video games or being "bad" after school. "This is keeping us out of trouble and keeping kids off the streets," he said. He plays basketball and football but said many other children in his class don't exercise.
"There are a lot of overweight kids and they need to get here and work out," he said but doubted that his less active peers would take advantage of the program.
His friend 13-year-old Daquan Jordan disagreed. He said he would be coming to the YMCA as often as he could. "This is cool," said young Jordan, who also plays basketball and football. "You can come here and practice and stay active for your sport."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: