This post comes courtesy of Janice Ackley, our fearless project leader for the Dare to be Healthy wellness initiative!

(Lake Charles, LA)—The Dare to be Healthy Challenge Grant, made possible by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, is making a big impact in the Calcasieu Parish School System. The CPSS launched three programs at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year that included an employee wellness initiative, infused curriculum, and enhanced PE classes. Teachers and students alike joined efforts to get fit and fight obesity and teachers and staff are learning to model healthy lifestyles while teaching students how to make healthier choices.

During September, National Obesity Month, students and staff at J.D. Clifton Elementary sought different ways to bring awareness and combat obesity. ”We wanted to educate our students, our parents and our faculty and staff on things we can do in order to get fit,” said Pamela Bell, Clifton’s principal. “We wanted to do healthy exercises and make the right eating choices.”

Each school and department in CPSS has designated a Wellness Warrior to lead their schools program. PE Coach Charlie Kinnison stepped up to serve as the wellness warrior at J.D. Clifton and facilitates activities and lessons to learn about healthy lifestyles. ”The students making me smile–that’s really the best part about your day as a teacher,” said Kinnison. “If you can get participation and kids enjoying what they’re doing, then it’s all worth it.”

“Our school based nurse is going to hold Zumba classes throughout the year with our students,” said Bell, “and a new initiative called “Fit Day” is kicking off here and at schools throughout the school system.”

While it’s fun for now, these students and faculty are addressing a critical national problem. According to statistics, nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese. That’s 33 percent. And here in Calcasieu Parish, 37 percent of all residents, adults and children, are overweight or obese. This is significantly higher than the national average.

Even still, faculty and staff at Calcasieu Parish schools will keep moving and learning more and more about healthier lifestyles. “We’re looking for great and exciting things to come with getting fit and being healthy,” said Bell.