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Dignitaries unveil school fitness center

| Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, 12:47 a.m.
Gov. Tom Corbett, right, and fitness enthusiast Jake Steinfeld honor South Allegheny Middle School teacher Jason Beisler, left, who wrote the application that won for his school a $100,000 fitness center. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

Gov. Tom Corbett joined fitness enthusiast Jake Steinfeld to cut the ribbon Friday for $100,000 worth of exercise equipment at South Allegheny Middle School.

“This is a gift that keeps on giving,” the governor said of the Live Positively Fitness Center South Allegheny won in a competition with several hundred other schools.

“The equipment is very user-friendly for a beginning or novice student,” said physical education teacher Jason Beisler, who wrote the winning application.

South Allegheny is one of four schools that won the centers from the National Foundation for Governor's Fitness Councils. Steinfeld chairs that foundation.

“We look to states, look to schools that are innovative,” Steinfeld said. “We want to put as many fitness centers in schools across the country as possible.”

Beisler said he submitted his entry in April. South Allegheny was announced as a winner by the Corbett administration in May.

Schools in Exeter, Berks County, and Troy, Bradford County, also were honored as “national champions” by the foundation. Fourteen South Allegheny students held a banner during the assembly and later had a first crack at the new equipment.

“Now we have a dedicated facility that the middle school can use, along with a dedicated facility that the high school can use,” Beisler said.

A fourth school, Roberto Clemente Promise Academy in Philadelphia, was chosen for a fitness center as a “chairman's award.”

“It's not just about building bodies,” Steinfeld told an assembly in the middle school gymnasium. “It is about building confidence and self-esteem.”

And building scores in the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, principal Lisa Duval told the assembly.

“Every teacher realizes the value of physical education,” Duval said.

“You're making them exercise before the PSSAs and that's a great idea,” the governor said.

Corbett stressed the role of public-private partnerships in purchasing the equipment.

“It is imperative that we work with both the private and public sector,” Steinfeld concurred.

The Coca-Cola Co. was cited for its role during the South Allegheny gathering and Jim Dinderman, Coca-Cola Pittsburgh market vice president for sales, attended the South Allegheny assembly.

Friday's event also had a strong bipartisan flavor.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Councilman Bob Macey, D-West Mifflin, and state Sen. James R. Brewster, D-McKeesport, and Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, were in attendance.

“This isn't a Democratic or a Republican issue,” Steinfeld said. “This is about kids.”

The foundation has provided fitness centers to schools in California and Washington and will announce three winning schools next week in Massachusetts.

South Allegheny Middle School has received its share of attention in recent years.

In the same week that Corbett announced the school would get a fitness center, it was redesignated as a Pennsylvania Don Eichorn “School to Watch.”

Since 2009 it has had an honor shared with only 25 other schools in Pennsylvania.

As the governor and others noted during the assembly, South Allegheny High School is getting its share of attention this fall. For the first time in 25 years, the school has qualified for the post-season WPIAL playoffs in football.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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