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Wendover Middle School announces its billboard star

Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Sixth-grader Morgan Podkul of Wendover Middle School won the “Healthy Habits” essay contest in Hempfield Area School District by describing how dancing keeps her healthy. Excela Health sponsored the contest for participating school districts in Westmoreland County and will feature the winners in a billboard campaign at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Thursday, June 12, 2014, 5:59 p.m.

Coming to Hempfield billboards this summer will be Morgan Podkul.

Morgan, who has just completed the sixth grade at Wendover Middle School, is the latest winner to be announced in a campaign sponsored by Excela Health.

Middle-school students were asked to describe their “Healthy Habits” in an essay contest.

The winning authors from participating school districts will be pictured on billboards to be erected at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

It is hoped they will inspire their peers to develop lifelong habits such as eating nutritious foods and getting enough exercise.

Morgan, who has been dancing since first grade, was honored during an awards ceremony at her school on May 30. She is the daughter of Mark and Kelly Podkul.

Her message was particularly touching. In her essay, she wrote:

“Dance keeps me in shape, providing me with cardiovascular exercise, flexibility and muscle strength, which is especially important for me since I have been diagnosed with scoliosis and need to wear a brace 14 hours a day. In addition, dance is also a social activity for me because most of my friends are from dance.

“Dance keeps me active and feeling good about myself,” she concluded.

Many of the winners focused on staying active.

Livia Taormina, 13, a Greensburg Central Catholic student from North Huntingdon described staying in good health through competitive cheerleading.

Sixth-grader Madison Wood of Greensburg Salem Junior High School described the joy of Irish step dancing.

Excela devised the campaign, now in its second round, in an attempt to tackle childhood obesity.

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