NFL Launches Fuel Up to Play 60 En Español

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

By: Ashmar Mandou

The NFL and the National Dairy Council teamed up once more to announce an expansion to their already successful program Fuel Up to Play 60, to empower even more youth about the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle with Fuel Up to Play 60 en Español. According to the CDC, one in three kids eats fast food at least once a day. In Chicago, 25 percent of Chicago public school students in kindergarten, 6th and 9th grades are obese, with the prevalence of obesity being highest in Latinos and African American children. Astonished by the number, Physical Education Educator Gustavo Silva decided to implement the program in Richmond Intermediate where he serves as dean and advisor of FUTP 60. Silva spoke to Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper about Fuel Up to Play 60 and how it is changing young lives.

Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper: Please share with our readers what Fuel Up to Play 60 is all about and what served as the tipping point for you to implement the program into your school?

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Gustavo Silva: Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school program that is made possible through a partnership between the National Dairy Council and the NFL. The basic mission of FUTP 60 is to give all kids access to healthy food and physical activity. The tipping point for me to implement the program was that the goals of FUTP 60 were consistent with my goals as a PE teacher. The message I was hearing was “we want what you want, how can we help you get there?” I applied for a FUTP 60 grant, and got it. That grant was the catalyst for our program at Richmond. I had a desire to start a morning fitness club at Richmond, that grant made it possible to do it. The rest is history.

Reading the statistics on childhood obesity, here in Chicago is disheartening. Since implementation of the program what differences have you seen in your students?
Since starting the FUTP 60 program almost 6 years ago, I have seen Richmond become a healthier, more active school. Our kids have so many opportunities to eat healthy and be active. I credit FUTP 60 for many of those opportunities. When I started working at Richmond, we didn’t have a breakfast program and students only had the opportunity for 120-150 minutes of organized physical activity per week. Today, we have a breakfast program, and this week, our students had the opportunity to engage in over 300 minutes of organized and supervised physical activity. These additional opportunities have provided physical, emotional and academic benefits to our students. FUTP 60 also has also provided students with leadership and community building skills.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

You have received an award for your health advocacy in combating childhood obesity, what drew you to become a Physical Education Teacher?
Growing up I always loved to play sports, I was super competitive, but unfortunately my family didn’t have the means to give me many opportunities to pursue those interests. I got into coaching after high school to give my younger siblings some of the opportunities that I didn’t have. Coaching actually led me to the realization that working with kids was my calling. Thanks to the support of my older brother Fernando and my wife Julie, I enrolled at Judson University to become a teacher. It seemed logical to combine my passion for sports and my love of kids to become a PE teacher.

What aspect of the program Fuel Up to Play 60 resonates with you most?
The aspect of the program that really resonates with me is the simplicity of the program. It really is as simple as getting kids to understand that they should eat healthy and get 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Then the next step is increasing their access to healthy food and physical activity. The great thing is that FUTP 60 provides an unbelievable amount of support to increase access to those initiatives with grants, annual health and fitness playbooks, mentoring and a new website in English and Spanish!

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

What would you like other educators to know about how Fuel Up to Play 60 is changing lives?
I would ask educators this question, “What is the single greatest skill that you can develop in your students that will impact the rest of their lives?” I would argue that the single greatest skill we can give students is, the ability to attain and maintain good health for the rest of their lives, and FUTP 60 does that. The interesting thing about that question is that no matter how you answer it, FUTP 60 enhances that skill. For example, if you answer academics, research shows that eating healthy and exercising also improves learning.

If your answer is leadership skills, FUTP 60 also provides leadership opportunities and empowers students to run the program themselves. It’s a student-centered and student-driven program, promoting community and relationship building to provide opportunities to serve others. It really does all that!

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