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Duquesne designated a Live Well Allegheny school system

| Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, 7:31 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
Duquesne third-grader Sha'Mar Day makes his way through a hula hoop with a chain of his classmates during a field day sponsored by Live Well Allegheny and community partners.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
Duquesne third-graders Geneah Pickell and Kalaun Walker pass a bean bag in a relay exercise during a Live Well Allegheny field day.

Duquesne City School District is the first in Allegheny County to be designated as a Live Well Allegheny school system.

Live Well Allegheny was introduced in January as a comprehensive wellness strategy that includes physical and mental health, along with personal and community safety.

“It's all centered around healthy living — making healthy choices and living well,” Duquesne Elementary principal Jennifer Jennings said. “The county wanted to find schools and communities to embrace the program, and we were already doing a majority of things on their list of qualifications.”

Live Well Allegheny requires school districts to meet 25-30 requirements such as healthy breakfast and lunch options, physical education, student wellness programs throughout the school year and activities that invite the community into the district.

“Live Well Allegheny is a very nice fit,” Jennings said. “We're making a connection and showing people outside of Duquesne the good things our students and staff are embarking on.”

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he's excited to have Duquesne students and staff engaging their school community in the Live Well campaign.

“The Live Well Duquesne Schools effort really addresses our goals of reducing childhood obesity and is doing so in cooperation with our health department and many other innovative partnerships that can make a huge difference in the lives of Duquesne students,” Fitzgerald said.

The district kicked off its Live Well program with a Move-a-Thon on Tuesday with help from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania, California University of Pennsylvania, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Giant Eagle, Kennywood Park, Mascaro Corp., Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Taylor Rental, the Air Force and the Marines.

Administrators, faculty and community partners engaged students in a full day of physical activities.

Students played games, participated in team challenges, danced, and tried military cadence drills.

“Everything they're doing outside is helping students in the classroom,” physical education teacher Lisa Szakeylhidi said. “They're out getting sunshine and Vitamin D, and they're learning to work together to accomplish their goals.”

Fourth-grader Justice Haten said his favorite part of the day was being able to have a good time with his classmates.

“Everybody's being nice,” Justice said. “We're having a fun day.”

Fifth-graders Nevaeh Askew and Anaya Hughes said they enjoyed activity stations and were glad to see smiles on everyone's faces.

“We're getting a good workout and having healthy snacks,” sixth-grader Jayden Glass said. “Our bodies need to be energized.”

Acting Superintendent Barbara McDonnell said students received a well-rounded benefit from the Move-a-Thon, as they will throughout the entire Live Well Allegheny affiliation.

“It's not just about being healthy physically, but emotionally, too,” McDonnell said. “It's about being safe and making positive choices. It encompasses the whole child, which fits into Duquesne's mission.”

Allegheny County Health Department director Dr. Karen Hacker said Duquesne City School District is developing ideas that provide for a robust campaign.

“The district will be sharing information on wellness campaign events, offer fresh fruit and vegetables at all meals, provide 2 percent milk and chocolate milk instead of whole milk, enhance its health education to include nutrition and physical activity information — and that's just the start of their plans,” Hacker said. “The district has agreed to a youth survey to gather information on physical activity and nutrition, and will share data with us to better inform our actions on wellness.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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