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Eat Right, Play Right
by Kayla Dubchansky
Apr 23, 2010 | 1952 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (center) poses with essay winners Taylor Von Stetina (left) and MaKena Pieretti (right).
Tribune photo by John Byrne - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith (center) poses with essay winners Taylor Von Stetina (left) and MaKena Pieretti (right).
The students of Sparks’ Van Gorder Elementary School learned Friday that hard work and perseverance really does pay off.

The students participated in the National Football League’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program where they exercised, made healthy choices and tracked what they ate. Van Gorder won the challenge and was rewarded with a special assembly and a special guest.

The Fuel Up to Play 60 program fights childhood obesity and the NFL, in association with the National Dairy Council, have help the program spread nationwide. There are 100 schools in Northern Nevada that participate and 363 schools across the country.

The emphasis of the program is for kids to make better decisions when it comes to what they eat, and to get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

“You’re teaching a person how to prioritize,” Van Gorder parent Rafael Aranga said. “There’s time to be active, time to study, time to do all that. Teaching people to do that is part of it.”

San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith spoke to the Van Gorder students at their morning assembly Friday, honoring the kids for the effort they’ve put out this year.

“I am very proud of our students and I feel like they really earned this,” Principal Troy Parks said. “Their focus on health and fitness and recording it, our junior joggers, they all participate as well as our PE program. I’m very excited for our students. It’s something I felt that they really earned to have this assembly with Alex Smith.”

Two students, Taylor Von Stetina and MaKena Pieretti won the essay contest and were honored with a photo opportunity with Smith as well as the chance to read their essays at the assembly.

During his presentation, Smith explained the importance of eating right and getting in some physical activity every day. He shared with the elementary students how he was always the smallest kid in his class. But he drank milk, ate healthy and exercised and eventually made it to the NFL.

“I think good role models are important to find anywhere,” Aranga said. “For some kids, Alex Smith will be that person.”

Smith also explained to his audience that at Helix High School in La Mesa, Calif., he played with fellow NFL star Reggie Bush and many other talented players. He asked the kids if they knew why Reggie Bush was the only other person from that team that made the NFL.

“He was the only one that did well in school,” Smith said.

Bush and Smith both focused on school and were able to go to college with both academics and athletics on their resumes.

After speaking to the kids, Smith has a question-and-answer session with the students. Many of the questions involved how Smith stayed in shape and some history about the places he played and how he got involved in football.

“I love what I do,” Smith told one student. It’s so cool to get paid to play football. It’s very, very cool … It’s something I never dreamed I could do.”

But Smith said the key to his success was “working harder than anyone else out there,” as well as making smart choices with food and exercise.

Along with Smith, City of Sparks Mayor Geno Martini made a proclamation to the students, teachers and parents, proclaiming that April 23, 2010 is the Van Gorder Health and Fitness day.

“That makes me extremely excited because as a school, we’re very focused on health and fitness and we have declared it as one of our core values,” Parks said. “It’s something we emphasize and celebrate.”

Health and Fitness has become one of the core values of the school. Van Gorder also offer a Jr. Joggers Jump Rope for Heart program, as well as martial arts and yoga. Students are recognized quarterly for their dedication and accomplishments in health and fitness.

Along with these programs, every student will complete a half or full marathon at some point during their stint at Van Gorder through the Jr. Joggers program over time.

“It’s very rewarding to get something because that’s what we feel our school is all about,” Parks said.
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Eat Right, Play Right by Kayla Dubchansky

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