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Kids have a way of holding adults accountable. When Jeff Suho started talking to his students about healthy eating and exercise, he knew he wasn’t living the lifestyle he was advocating.
He wasn’t interested in joining a gym or cutting out every food he loves, but he did want to get healthier. In August 2011, it occurred to him he could try following the advice the School Health Initiative Program gives students in Williamsburg-James City County Schools. Today, he’s shed 60 pounds and has a healthier lifestyle.
Suho, now a SHIP wellness integration specialist at three elementary schools, was a second grade teacher at Stonehouse Elementary School when he first became a soccer club sponsor. He enjoyed the experience of helping the kids start healthy habits. Inspired by SHIP’s challenge clubs, he decided to start a running club at Stonehouse, with about 80 kids (and a few adults) meeting to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Suddenly, he had an exercise regime, and a group of pint-sized personal trainers who would be disappointed if he slacked off. “Kids are so honest, and it’s easy to want to do stuff for them,” he said.
His involvement with SHIP grew when he was asked to become a school wellness council leader, which he credits as one of the main motivations to get healthy. “When you represent the health of the school, you want to be a healthy role model,” he said. “I was hoping to help motivate kids who were having a hard time finding motivation.”
SHIP started in 2005 with the goal of promoting healthy lifestyles in WJCC schools. The program, which is funded by the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation, sponsors challenge clubs encouraging kids to be physically active or learn to prepare healthy snacks. Suho said simply managing the running challenge club and eating school lunches helped him lose weight.
School meals don’t resemble the fried food he remembers from his own school days, but that’s a good thing, Suho said. “It’s shocking people don’t believe they’re as healthy as they are,” he said. He particularly loves the “smart pizza,” made with wheat crusts, and has enjoyed the effort to bring fresh produce, such as cabbage and kale, into cafeterias.
Even the lunch workers were surprised. Suho said one cafeteria employee complimented him on his weight loss last year and when he informed her tray meals were a big part of it, she was amazed. Just as the schools are trying to introduce kids to more vegetables and less fried food, they were able to improve Suho’s diet.
His biggest foe wasn’t cafeteria food, but the 23 birthday parties his classroom celebrated with cupcakes. “Looking back, it feels like it was easy, but I can’t tell you how many times I saw a cupcake or a cookie and thought, ‘One won’t hurt,’” Suho said. Moderation became his guiding principle. “I haven’t cut foods out, but I’ve cut back.”
The funny thing about kids is that, if they love you, they love you just the way you are. Most of them didn’t even notice Suho’s weight loss as it was happening over the course of last year; it was their parents who started asking him for tips. All the students care about is that Mr. Suho still runs with them on Thursdays.
Learn more about SHIP.
York to Feature Discussion of Growth Mindset
York County’s Gifted Education Advisory Committee will host Virginia Beach Public Schools’ William Goff on Feb. 5.
Goff will discuss Carol Dweck’s “Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets,” which shows how parents can either help or hinder the development of growth mindset, in which people believe their basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. He will provide strategies for giving children feedback that supports achievement and lifelong success.
The program will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the kiva at Grafton Middle School. The program is designed for parents and childcare will not be provided. For more information, call 898-0389.
WCA Sophomores Devote Time to Military
Every grade at Williamsburg Christian Academy devotes time to a year-long service project.
The high school’s sophomores have donated their services to the Military Ministry division of Campus Crusade, located in Newport News.
Once a month, the students help assemble Rapid Deployment Kits (RDKs). On their most recent visit, the students assembled 1,600 kits.
York County ‘Reflections’ Winners
Students throughout York County Schools entered this year’s PTA-sponsored Reflections contest. Their entries reflected the theme, “The Magic of a Moment.”
Click here to see a full list of winners.