Pawtucket launches fitness program for middle schoolers

Pawtucket launches fitness program for middle schoolers

Students at Goff Middle School use the stationary bikes in the school’s fitness room during a launch of an after-school fitness program, funded by a $20,000 donation from Bristol County Savings Bank. (Breeze photo by Melanie Thibeault)

PAWTUCKET – Looking for a positive way to bond with his classmates after school, Marcelo Ferreira, an 8th-grader at Goff Middle School, joined the new “Get Fit” fitness program. “This is the first time I’m participating in (something) after school,” he told The Breeze last Wednesday, Dec. 11, as he used a rowing machine in the school’s fitness room. “This is a big deal for me … I thought it was a good pastime.”

The new before- and after-school fitness program officially launched this week at Goff Middle School, Jenks Middle School, and Slater Middle School in Pawtucket, and is funded by a $20,000 donation from Bristol County Savings Bank.

Mayor Donald Grebien, Pawtucket School Department officials, and teachers and students at Goff Middle School celebrated the launch of the program and thanked representatives from Bristol County Savings Bank last Wednesday at the school. Students received T-shirts, towels, and water bottles with the logo “Pawtucket Middle Schools Get Fit.”

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Mike Marques, a physical education/health teacher at Goff, told The Breeze, adding that it’s a good beginning for these students’ paths to being healthy.

Gabriel Vargas, an 8th-grader at Goff, said that he joined the program as a way to not slack off as much after school and to get more fit and “work on things (he’s) missing” in his fitness routine.

“There are so many fun ways you can (work out),” he said.

The mayor and school officials thanked Bristol County Savings Bank for their support and emphasized the importance of starting healthy habits, such as exercise, at a young age. If kids start exercising now, it’s a habit that they’ll keep up as they get older, Marques said.

One other benefit to the program is that it gets kids offline and off their phones after school to socialize with their peers in person, officials said. The program provides an outlet for “middle school students (who) really need something to do after school,” said Supt. Cheryl McWilliams.

“There isn’t anything more important (than) contributing to education,” said Michele Roberts, EVP and chief marketing and community relations officer at Bristol County Savings Bank, telling The Breeze that it’s the primary focus of their charitable foundation.

The program, run by physical education/health teachers at each school, is divided into two seven-week sessions, starting this week and running through May 2020.

Each group, which has a maximum of 30 students, meets once a week for a 90-minute session.

To make the program more inclusive, Goff Principal Kim McCaughey said, they tailored the program so sessions will run in the morning before school as well as after school to meet students’ different needs.

Students in grades 6-8 can voluntarily sign up for the program. They will participate in supervised warm-up activities, running, and calisthenics to boost their stamina and overall health and will learn about nutrition and making healthy choices.

Programs take place in each school’s exercise room, which have cardio equipment (bikes, treadmills, and rowing machines) with routines designed for students.

Students will work on stationary bicycles and walk and run on treadmills to elevate and reach maximum heart rate zones, which is where they’ll burn the most calories, Marques said. They’ll also participate in circuit training, which involves different exercise stations that last for one- to two-minute bursts, including jump roping and box jumps.

The variety is a way to “mix it up” so that the sessions keep students engaged and not bored, he said.

Lisa Ramzi, interim assistant superintendent, told The Breeze that school officials left it up to the individual schools to decide how they want to monitor progress.

Marques emphasized that the program isn’t about weight loss, and said he’s not sure how they’ll track students’ progress yet but it might look like students being able to stay in their maximum heart rate zones for a longer period of time at the end of the session.

“I’m really hoping to see results in seven weeks,” he said.