By Tina Dirmann

staff writer for BCBSLA Foundation

Mat Schwarzman, GRoW project leader, says fall classes begin this Saturday!
Mat Schwarzman, GRoW project leader, says fall classes begin this Saturday!

School may be back in session – but there’s still plenty of time to squeeze in weekly healthy living lessons and community involvement activities, the leaders of GRoW insist.  You know, there are all those lazy Saturday afternoons, for example…

And in the Gentilly area, kids will have plenty of opportunity to make the most of those free weekends, as GRoW launches their fall program this Saturday.

“It’s a challenge to bring all these players together and make it work,” said Mat Scharzman, project leader for GRoW (Great Resources WhereY’at — a Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant supported program). “But I think the kids are really enjoying it. We see a lot of the same kids coming back week to week!”

And what’s not to like? Kids have their choice to participate in activities like dancing, biking, karate, cooking – even participate in a community service project. And, good news for parents, it’s all free of charge, thanks to our grant dollars at work.

The program officially kicked off over the summer, when weekly classes began at Arthur Ashe Charter School. We actually took a trip out to visit the program  in-session in June and had a chance to watch the kids doing their thing. We saw first-hand what a blast they had learning healthy lessons, all while dancing, biking, karate kicking and generally playing around.

Arthur Ashe will again host the program, running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m for the next six weeks. A few new class offerings have even been added to the mix, Schwarzman said.

“We’re going to continue with our yoga and karate classes,” Schwarzman said. “But we’ve got some exciting new things, too – like a new cooking class.”

Cooking instructors will actually teach kids recipes to take home and try with their families. And piggy backing on that program will be a new healthy tutoring class, which encourages kids to read books about healthy life styles or famous inspirational figures (celebrity chef or top sports figure – we’re envisioning some Drew Breese readings here!). Playworks is another added class, encouraging kids to engage in games outside, on a playground (we’re talking some serious heart-pumping, adrenaline-rushing play time).

And perhaps the most exciting of all? A series of new community service projects. GRoW’s kid volunteers will come together to take on some good works, for the betterment of their community. Fence needs mending? Or painting? Park needs weeding? New community garden needs building? GRoW’s kids might just be there, putting in the elbow grease.

Schwarzman says the exact community project hasn’t been chosen just yet.

“But they will be doing hands-on work,” he said of the tasks, which will also be led by adult volunteers and GRoW staffers.

In between all this hard work and play, everyone gets a healthy lunch.

“We found the healthy meals we were serving during our summer session were very influential,” Schwarzman said. “The kids were bringing information about the meals home to their parents and trying to get them to make it at home.  We served stuff like whole wheat pasta salad and showed them how to make good deserts by using fruit juices and honey and things better for you than sugar.”

And, Schwarzman says, he’s still accepting sign-ups for the fall session. And let’s repeat — there is no charge for any child living within the Gentilly public school service area to participate in the GRoW programs! For more information or to sign up, go to, or contact a GRoW representative at 504-220-2321.