ELIZABETH – On Tuesday, May 1, Elizabeth Public Schools held its fifth annual health expo in collaboration with organizers Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce President James R. Coyle and Trinitas Regional Medical Center Vice President of Clinical Services, Nancy DiLiegro, PhD. Healthy Leap into Summer, the largest teen obesity awareness program in the United States according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, took place at the Dunn Sports Center in Elizabeth from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The one-day program is designed to promote healthy lifestyles to high school students while addressing the epidemic of teen obesity. Childhood obesity has grown considerably in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three children in our nation is now considered obese. The annual Healthy Leap event provides Elizabeth Public Schools’ high school students the tools they need to combat teen obesity and live more health conscious lives.
Elizabeth Board of Education President Marie Munn commended the health expo’s organizers and participants. “I am grateful to our generous, committed community sponsors and exhibitors who continue to provide our students this tremendous opportunity to gain knowledge in the areas of healthy living and physical fitness.”
Over 2000 students from the district’s six high schools participated in workshops, received health screenings, viewed food demonstrations, and had the opportunity to take part in over 40 interactive exhibits provided by organizations from Elizabeth and the surrounding community. Popular exhibits included the U.S. Army’s pull-ups, push-ups, and tug- o-war competitions, as well as a new Latin Fusion exhibit by the Elizabeth YMCA. Students relished the healthy food tasting areas which included fresh fruit smoothies and wraps.
The expo concluded with a rally including guest speakers, performers, and contests for students. Competition winners of healthy poster, dance and public service announcement contests each received $500 scholarships. Students also earned tickets from various exhibits and workshops which they used to enter a drawing for an iPad provided by the Gateway Chamber of Commerce.
The rally began with a brief talk by Sergeant Donald Johnson, member of the Union County Department of Corrections Gang Intelligence Unit. Sgt. Johnson addressed the bleachers packed with eleventh and twelfth grade students with a personal message about the tragedy of gangs and a culture of violence. He urged Elizabeth’s teens do the right thing and resist violence, through a rap song, which was enthusiastically received.
American recording artist and songwriter Charlie Vox, who has writing and production credits on the albums of marquee talents including Rihanna and Deborah Cox, entertained students during the rally by performing her single, Lie Instead. Vox also shared with students her personal struggle in achieving a healthy weight.
“As a teen I struggled with obesity, and because of it, my teen years were a difficult time for me, I hope I inspired someone with my story to get up, get moving and get healthy,” said Vox.
New York Red Bulls soccer goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo urged students to take a “healthy leap” by staying away from drugs, keeping active, and staying in shape through sports and physical activity.
Jim Coyle, President of the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, commented, “The Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce is again proud to have collaborated in organizing this important health expo. Over and over, teen obesity has been proven one of the deadliest but least talked about issues of our time. This generation experiencing teen obesity needs good role models and healthier options, and we at the Chamber could not be more pleased to be able to help provide them.”
Angie Tsirkas, Vice President and Business Development Officer for Northfield Bank, commented, “Northfield Bank is proud to have been part of the Healthy Leap into Summer expo and salutes all the young men and women in attendance who committed themselves to living a healthier lifestyle.”
“It’s important to instill healthy behaviors early in life so that children and adolescents can carry those lessons into adulthood,” said Judith L. Roman, President and CEO of AmeriHealth New Jersey. “AmeriHealth New Jersey was proud to support the Healthy Leap into Summer health expo again this year and help educate students in our local communities.”
“Overlook Medical Center was pleased to participate in this successful event providing information on healthy snacking and better choices,” stated Coordinator of Health Education Pamela Rudy. “We as a health institution are always concerned not only about the rise in Childhood Obesity but also in Type II Diabetes in children. We applaud the Gateway Chamber and the other sponsors for highlighting information on the importance of fitness and healthy eating for youth.”
The health expo was sponsored by the Gateway Regional Chamber of Commerce, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, AmeriHealth New Jersey, Overlook Medical Center, and Northfield Bank.
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