Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro Middle School Principal Freda Givens said she believes in leading her students, faculty and staff members by example.
On Tuesday, Givens set the example by leading a group of 37 school employees, pupils and parents into a semester-long campaign to say farewell to 1,000 pounds of body weight. She said she hopes it will encourage her students to be more conscious about their health and fitness levels.
"We can't really preach it to students if we're not out doing it ourselves," Givens said. "These are things we need to take care of."
The school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association chapter has established a team to participate in the nationwide 50 Million Pound Challenge, a campaign in which people across the nation work to get fit and collectively lose, as the name suggests, 50 million pounds of body weight.
The school's weight-loss team, which is named the "JMS Golden Bears," met for the first time on Tuesday evening to kick off its campaign to lose the weight it has committed to shed.
The challenge is a weight-loss campaign created through a partnership between State Farm Insurance and Dr. Ian Smith, a diet expert from the VH1 television show, "Celebrity Fit Club," said Danielle Tarver, a State Farm agent assistant and Jonesboro Middle School's 50 Million Pound Challenge representative.
"Basically, we're doing this to let people know that we all should be healthy, no matter if we are young, or old," Tarver said.
Jonesboro Middle School PTSA President Selena Buchanan said the PTSA chapter organized a team because one of the mandates for all PTA chapters is to promote health and fitness among its members. People who join the team are asked to pay $5 for membership in the PTSA chapter.
"This is a way to take their money, and give them something back in return," Buchanan said. "We have to set a good example for the students. If we're not getting ourselves in shape, how are we going to get them to be in shape either?"
Team members spent an hour and a half on Tuesday doing several stretching and cardiovascular exercises, as well as some line dancing and jogging around the school cafeteria. Team members also received 2009 Flag Football Challenge T-shirts that Givens said were donated by Atlanta Falcons Wide Receiver Harry Douglas, a Jonesboro High School graduate.
Additionally, each team member received a 50 Million Pound Challenge kit that includes a weight-loss guide book, an informational DVD, and a pedometer, Tarver said.
Going forward, team members will do fitness activities after school, four days a week until May 31, to reach their goal. On Mondays and Wednesdays, team members will walk around the perimeter of the Jonesboro Middle School campus. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the team members will do cardiovascular exercises.
Givens said people can still join the school's 50 Million Pound Challenge team by logging onto www.50millionpounds.com.
Marsha Garnett, a counseling secretary at the school, said she is looking to lose 20 pounds, but not just for the sake of looking thinner. A breast cancer survivor, Garnett said she wants to participate in the challenge to improve her health.
"For me, it's a health need, to be in better shape," she said. "I think it's going to help that we're doing this as a group. It makes it fun."
In at least one case, a family has committed to lose the weight together. Vanessa Crichlow, the mother of an eighth-grader at Jonesboro Middle School, is participating in the challenge with her mother, Yucklin Crichlow, and her sister, Jeniveve Eason. Vanessa Crichlow said she is looking to lose 10 to 15 pounds, while Yucklin Crichlow said she is aiming to lose 40 pounds, and Eason said her goal is to lose at least 20 pounds.
"I think doing this together will help us with motivation," Vanessa Crichlow said. "It's easier to be motivated when you're doing something with a group."
"There will also be some rivalry because we'll want to show off what we've done," Eason said.
Givens said there is no prize for the team that loses the most weight. The reward, she said, is working toward living a healthier lifestyle. "You're a winner because you're doing it for yourself," she said.
The principal would not say how much weight she plans to lose this spring, but she said her teammates, and her students, will be keeping a close eye on her progress.
"Believe me, my students will hold me accountable," Givens said.