Detroit Lions alumnus Joique Bell visits Patton  Elementary School March 20 to speak to students about the importance of eating healthy and exercise.

Detroit Lions alumnus Joique Bell visits Patton Elementary School March 20 to speak to students about the importance of eating healthy and exercise.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Students learn how to get healthy with some help from the Lions

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 26, 2019

 Detroit Lions mascot Roary helps students at Patton Elementary School learn some fun ways to stay healthy at a presentation at the school March 20.

Detroit Lions mascot Roary helps students at Patton Elementary School learn some fun ways to stay healthy at a presentation at the school March 20.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ROSEVILLE — Teaching kids to stay healthy isn’t fun and games — except when it literally is fun and games.

Educators in districts such as Roseville Community Schools are faced with the challenge of convincing their students to eat right and exercise. They are taking part in new initiatives to show young people how to get healthy and stay healthy through activities in the classroom, on the playground and at home.

Patton Elementary School hosted a Play 60 presentation to aid in these goals March 20. Representatives from the Detroit Lions, including running back Joique Bell and mascot Roary, stopped by the school to help impart some important lessons about health.

“We try to teach them to be leaders,” said Chris Fritzsching, program presenter and the director of football education for the Lions. “The biggest thing about our presentation is we’re trying to impart lessons that can help them their entire lives. If you teach them discipline in one part of life, it carries over to other parts of their lives.”

The program was part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Building Healthy Communities partnership with Patton. Building Healthy Communities teams up several organizations, including Wayne State University, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Michigan Department of Education, with the common goal of reaching students to encourage better health through nutrition and exercise.

“Today, Patton Elementary is having a Lions Play 60 program,” said Sharon Oleksyk, the Building Healthy Communities program manager. “It’s a fun way to reinforce the message students learn all year to stay healthy by eating nutritiously, finding something active that you enjoy and being a leader to encourage others to do the same.”

Oleksyk said the program is a great way to spread positive messages in a way that the students will enjoy, pay attention to and remember.

“The assembly goes into a lot of the basic messages of healthy living, like the importance of fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast and moving for 60 minutes each day,” said Oleksyk.

Fritzsching and the rest of the Lions crew talked to the students about different ways they can exercise and how the right attitude can help them accomplish their goals.

“I think the ability to use the resources around their school and home is the most important thing we can teach them — see what’s around you,” said Fritzsching. “It goes a long way, whether it’s in school, playing sports or playing instruments.”

Patton Principal Jeanne Williams said schools have to take an active role in student health, since it is where they spend the most time outside of the home.

“When these opportunities come up, schools should look into them,” advised Williams. “Schools need to build health into the students’ day. We have 100 percent free breakfasts and lunches for the students. Now, we offer kids good food choices and show them how to take those lessons home. We also incorporate those lessons into science classes and morning announcements. We provide them with challenges, such as the one from today, where we asked them to eat something healthy that starts with the same first letter of their name.”

She went on to say that schools should explore resources like Building Healthy Communities. The benefits to students are too good to pass up.

“We got involved (with Building Healthy Communities) after we were involved in a previous Play 60 grant for recess equipment,” said Williams. “That led to some phone calls about what we could be doing for students’ nutrition. Taking part in programs like this add up to be something good for student health and improvements in test scores. It was a good match.”

More information on Building Healthy Communities can be found at www.bcbsm.com/buildhealth. It is designed to be a sustainable program that doesn’t require large amounts of funding year after year for schools.

“(The Building Healthy Communities program) is open to all schools in Michigan, which can join by applying,” explained Oleksyk. “It’s free to receive the curriculum, physical education equipment and support resources to start healthy after-school programs and establish peer-driven leadership programs. It’s designed to be sustainable and remain going after applying just the one time.”

Williams said such efforts are showing success, and the students seem to be taking the lessons to heart.

“This program has had a lasting impact on our students,” she said. “They are forging habits that can last a lifetime. It’s our job to carry this message to them and keep incorporating it into lessons.”

Call Staff Writer Brendan Losinski at (586) 498-1068.

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