Get Fit For Life
Thanks to Healthy Kids and Teens, these families are learning great exercise and eating habits. Yours can, too.
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About Healthy Kids
Clintonia Simmons founded Healthy Kids & Teens (HKT) in 2006 with a simple mission: to help kids and their families lead healthier lives. HKT, supported by Tennessee Coordinated School Health, serves children from ages 3 to 19. “ ‘Healthy living begins with me’ is our motto,” Simmons says. “You have to get youth to own it and help set their own goals. If they own it, you get better results. It’s impressive that Karl was motivated to continue beyond our work in the after-school program. We teach kids to be health champions in their families.”
And it’s working. “Our 5-year-olds have told their moms, “Don’t eat cookies. They’re bad for you,’” she says with a smile.
Camp Get Fit is held at 10 school locations. Some are included in P.E. or lifetime wellness classes; others are held after school. Simmons customizes programs for each schools’ needs.
While kids attend Camp Get Fit, parents of preschoolers can attend Smart and Secure Children, a class offered in partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine. The 2014 summer camp will be held at a Shelby County School location. Camp participants dance, learn yoga, do strength training, and garden.
Getting in the Game
HKT works with Boys and Girls Club of Memphis and has served 20,000 kids state-wide. At first, this was a one-woman operation that Clintonia funded herself. Now, corporate sponsorships support the program. Before trying to help a village, Clintonia started at home. Her daughter Jessica had gained weight while in middle school, losing social confidence.
So Clintonia urged her daughter to exercise, but Jessica wanted a partner. Together, they lost 80 pounds. “When I began HKT’s work, it was often stated to me that youth do not buy food and must be directed by parents,” she says. “I know differently because my daughter motivated me to change and begin this wonderful service.”
After attending a meeting that focused on childhood obesity, Clintonia saw the magnitude of the problem. “It hit me — I’ve got to help these kids.” Driven to make change, she became a certified fitness trainer and studied for an M.B.A. in healthcare management. She eventually hired 15 trainers with master’s degrees and consulted with a pediatrician and dietician.
Kids Encouraging Parents
Wellness and P.E. teacher Yas Dillard was on diabetes medication when her son participated in an after-school program. “He encouraged me to run in a 5K,” she says. “Next I trained for a half-marathon. Now my goal is to run one race every month.” After cutting breads and sweets, Dillard lost 52 pounds and no longer requires diabetes medication. At Southeast Prep Academy, she inspires her high school students, who say, “You can do it. So can I.” She has mostly male students who enjoy the high-intensity workouts offered in the afterschool program.
When Clintonia first started, Memphis was ranked third in the nation for childhood obesity. Today, the city’s ranking has fallen slightly to number five. “Our work is making a difference. The most important thing is to change the person within.”