EDITORIAL: Two steps for smarter, healthier students

22

Sep
2014
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by Lisa Fernandez, pitcher on the U.S. Olympic Gold medal softball teams on 1996, 2000 and 2004 and a Champions for America’s Future member

Long Beach Press Telegram, September 4, 2014—Many students heading back to school this year will find they have lost significant academic ground during the summer. Many will also be a lot heavier as a result of physical inactivity and unhealthy diets. As a parent and coach, I know of two simple ways to address these problems.

To tackle “summer learning loss” we must first recognize its disproportionate impact on kids from economically challenged families which cannot afford access to camps, museums and other educational activities that strengthen cognitive development. Through my involvement with Champions for America’s Future, a nonprofit organization that supports children’s health and educational success, I believe we can address this inequity by ensuring more kids are involved in meaningful learning activities over the summer and all year long.

Fortunately, this past summer children and families had several summer learning options through the Long Beach Parks and Recreation Department, including summer camps built around science, engineering, filmmaking, cooking and sports. California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) also offered math and science-focused camps throughout the summer months. The Long Beach YMCA Youth Institute began with a weeklong camping trip to encourage team-building and continued with five weeks of activities that help students develop technology skills.

These programs all have one thing in common: They are all subject to the availability of scarce financial resources. With an average registration fee of $250 per week, high-quality summer learning programs can be out of reach for families struggling to make ends meet. Policymakers can greatly improve access to these opportunities in 2015 by prioritizing funding for them right now.

Keeping kids engaged the rest of the year is a major objective for the Long Beach Unified School District, which is implementing Linked Learning strategies that integrate rigorous academics, career exploration and work-based learning into the high school experience. The district also pairs students with mentors and internships, and offers job shadowing and service learning opportunities that exemplify connections between school and work.

As a parent, I like this approach because I want my sons to understand the value of their education as a pathway to rewarding careers.

As a coach, I am equally concerned about the problem of weight gain during the summer months. Research shows that, on average, during the summer children put on almost half the total weight gain they acquire during the entire year. Weight problems make it harder for young people to participate actively in school sports, which further prevents them from getting adequate exercise. They are also a contributing factor to many serious medical problems as children and adults, as well as shorter life spans.

Fortunately, as a result of congressional passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun to implement updated standards to improve the nutritional quality of foods offered to students in public schools, including more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages.

There is so much more that we can do.

Coaches and athletes can emphasize the importance of eating healthy foods, exercising and staying hydrated. School administrators can build on their success in providing healthy foods by offering better access to fresh, free drinking water as an alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. And parents can do their part at home by getting rid of unhealthy snacks and finding ways to keep kids active during the summer and all year long.

EDITORIAL: High quality preschool helps kids excel in life

04

Jun
2014
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by John Geddert, 2012 USA Gymnastics Olympic Team head coach, and a Champions for America’s Future member

The Lansing State Journal, May 22, 2014—One of the best things we can do in society is to help kids succeed. It’s a win-win situation when that happens.

I see this play out in the gymnasium every day. Gymnastics is a technically demanding sport. Our athletes have to be extremely bright to understand the complexities of what the sport involves. They also need the social skills to get along with teammates, and the emotional fortitude to succeed. That foundation is built during their early years. These kids have parents who are involved in their development and who understand that good habits early on are required for success.

Research shows at-risk kids who access high-quality preschool can also be better competitors in school and beyond. In the long run, it costs far less for taxpayers when kids grow into individuals who add to the tax base. The benefits of success are tremendous.

Time and again, we get things right. Ensuring that high-quality preschool is accessible is one of the things we get right in Michigan.

 

VIDEO: Olympic Silver Medalist featured in 60-second video by law enforcement, military, business, faith, and sports leaders

12

May
2014
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This is a timely message from Judi Brown Clarke, Olympic Silver Medalist, 1984, as lawmakers consider legislation this year on a state/federal partnership to ensure that at-risk 4-year-olds have access to high-quality preschool — a proven tool to help kids establish the foundation to gain knowledge and technologically-based skills for the 21st Century workforce.  Those skills will help kids to succeed in school, sports, and jobs.

Judi joined members of five nonprofit membership organizations that are working together to ensure Michigan preschoolers have access to high-quality early childhood care and education proven to prepare individuals for success in school, sports, and life.

High-quality preschool can help young children build essential academic, emotional, and social skills that are critical for later success. At-risk children who attend high-quality early education programs are less likely to need special education, less likely to commit crimes, and more likely to graduate high school.

 

PHOTOS: Michigan Athletes and Coaches Support Great Start Readiness Program

23

Apr
2014
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Coach Pat O’Keefe, Head Coach, Grand Ledge HS Varsity Baseball stood at the podium alongside Champions for America’s Future members former MSU Women’s Track and Field coach Judi Brown Clarke, Ph.D.; Nolan Moody, J.D., a former MSU star and pitcher for the Detroit Tigers minor league system and Appointee to the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health & Sports; and and 2012 USA Olympic Gymnastics Team Head Coach John Geddert, who leads Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing.
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RELEASE: Michigan Athletes and Coaches Support Great Start Readiness Program

23

Apr
2014
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New Report Details Evidence That Shows Preschool Increases Graduation Rates

(April 23, 2014)—A group of four-year-olds at Lansing’s EC3 – Educational Child Care Center, spent “recess” with some interesting visitors today: top Michigan athletes and coaches who released a report on behalf of Champions for America’s Future entitled, I Can’t Coach the Kids Who Drop Out.  The report spotlights the impact of high-quality preschool on long-term academic achievement, high school graduation rates and college readiness.  In addition they urged lawmakers to step up to the plate in support of Governor Snyder’s plan to ensure that Michigan is a “no-wait” state for preschool.

The athletes and coaches included Olympic silver medalist and former MSU Women’s Track and Field coach Judi Brown Clarke, Ph.D.; Nolan Moody, J.D., a former MSU star and pitcher for the Detroit Tigers minor league system and Appointee to the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health & Sports; Grand Ledge High School Varsity Baseball Coach Pat O’Keefe; and 2012 USA Olympic Gymnastics Team Head Coach John Geddert, who leads Twistars USA Gymnastics Club in Lansing.
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RELEASE: Making Good Yardage in the Fight Against Childhood Obesity, But…

13

Mar
2014
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by Colin Allred, Former linebacker for Tennessee Titans of the NFL and Champions for America’s Future member

My fellow athletes and coaches who are members of Champions for America’s Future understand the importance of being fit and healthy. It’s not only important to those of us who do (or did) compete on the field; it’s also critical to all Americans who must compete in life. We are especially concerned about helping to make sure our children are healthy and properly nourished so they start out on the right track, and have the best shot at being fit, healthy, and productive citizens when they grow up.

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EDITORIAL: This Olympic athlete knows preschool matters

03

Feb
2014
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by Emily Cook,  a freestyle skier competing in the Sochi Winter Olympics and a Champions for America’s Future member

The Salt Lake City Tribune, February 1, 2014—Close to 3,000 athletes will be competing in 15 different sporting events at the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but there is one thing virtually all of us have in common: We didn’t make it here overnight.
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RELEASE: Support for RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America Recommendations

13

Jan
2014
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CONTACT:  Chris Beakey, cbeakey@championsforamericasfuture.org
302-448-0253

Many of our members coach college sports teams – so they have a vested interest in ensuring their players have the academic foundation they need to succeed in higher eduction.
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EDITORIAL: Preschool proposal is a win for Maryland families

02

Jan
2014
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by Randy Edsall,  head football coach at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Champions for America’s Future member

The Baltimore Sun, December 30, 2013—As the football coach at the University of Maryland, College Park, I consider myself fortunate to have players who have the academic foundation to be successful in college. I am not alone. College coaches nationwide have a vested interest in expanding the pipeline of young adults who are prepared for the rigors of college work. In NCAA Division I schools in particular, athletes are allowed no more than five years to graduate while receiving athletically related financial aid. And Division I schools are monitored by their Academic Progress Rate, which is calculated based on the academic eligibility and retention of each student athlete.

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RELEASE: Our Campaign for Expanded Preschool

17

Dec
2013
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Overview:

In November 2013, the bipartisan “Strong Start for America’s Children Act” was introduced in Congress to create a state-federal partnership to expand access to high-quality preschool for lower-income four-year olds. The goal is to make sure all children are prepared for kindergarten and their school years, and to help them acquire the social and academic skills to have the best chance to succeed.

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