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Healthy Students Help Homeless

Fairview Elementary kicks off partnership and walkathon.

Students and teachers at Fairview Elementary School marched their way into a partnership with a medical center and a school-wide service project Friday, Oct. 28. In a joint ceremony, the Fairfax Station school kicked off the partnership with the Kaiser Permanente Burke Medical Center and began its ninth annual Help the Homeless Mini-Walk.

"The themes tie together," said Jeanette Papadakis, vice-president of the Fairview PTA. "Themes like walking, taking care of others, staying healthy."

Business partnerships in schools have been a part of Fairfax County Public Schools for at least two decades, said assistant superintendent Leslie Butz.

"The partnership is focused on sharing human capital resources rather than financial," said Butz. "It's about connecting adults with children."

Often, said School Board member Tessie Wilson (Braddock), this mentoring is a large part of the business-school partnership.

The partnership with Fairview is a first for Kaiser Permanente Burke Medical Center, said Susan Haid, outreach coordinator.

"I think it’s something we can do that’s exciting and a good way for us to support the school right down the street from us," said Haid. "It increases community awareness of the center."

The partnership between the school and the medical center, like other school-business pairings, provides benefits for both sides.

"We’re going to have information and lesson activities on promoting health and wellness," said Dr. Margaret Scott, Fairview's principal. These lessons will take place inside and outside the classroom, she said. Each grade will take health-enrichment classes tailored to their grade level. These classes will take place in an area of the school called "The Pod," hence the class’s name, "Health Lessons In The Pod."

On Valentine’s Day, the Kaiser Permanente Burke Medical Center will set up a health fair for the students to coincide with the Jump Rope for Heart program.

Activities are not limited to students, either. In September, the Fairview staff began a Walk Across America project, in which they wear a pedometer and track their walking progress against a map showing how many steps it takes to get to different cities. Teachers will also take part in CPR training, said Haid.

"We’re hoping this promotes wellness as well," said Scott. "When you have incentives such as this, the staff focuses on wellness a lot more."

Smaller-scale activities include community benefit programs, tours of Kaiser Burke’s labs, and holiday baskets for families in need, said Haid.

AS PART of the deal, the school will provide Kaiser Burke with framed student artwork and musical performances on holidays and member appreciation days, said Haid. Kaiser Burke also has a column in the Fairview Falcon Newsletter, a health-related article called "Kaiser Permanente Corner."

The focus on health is important during cold and flu season, said Haid, when people should begin thinking about washing their hands a little extra and keeping careful to stay healthy.

FCPS' focus on nutrition is grade-specific and changes with the times, said Butz. For example, kindergartners learn about general hygiene, while teens would focus on external factors and making good decisions, like not doing drugs.

"There’s a real focus now about lifestyle planning and how you build exercise and healthy diet into your life," said Butz.

"It’s about the choices [students] make along the way, and steering them into making the right choices," said Wilson.

But when the PTA sat down to meet with the second grade teachers, said Papadakis, one of the teachers' requests was a way to make teaching nutrition and fitness more exciting, and that was part of the reason Fairview partnered with the Kaiser Permanente Burke Medical Center.

"The basics, I think, is what I would impress upon them," said Haid, when asked for health advice for children. "Basic good healthy eating."

IN FRIDAY'S Mini-Walk, all Fairview students set off on a mile-and-a-half journey around the neighborhood to get their bodies moving, and to raise money for Northern Virginia Family Services and the homeless shelter Charlie’s Place. Last year, said Scott, the school raised $25,000.

"It’s important the students develop a sense of empathy and give back to their community," said assistant principal Mark Boyd. The walkathon is part of the school’s character enrichment program, said Scott.

For third-grader Brionna Simmons, walking is a good way to keep healthy. In her opinion, the most important part of health is exercise. Brionna's favorite activities are any that involve a lot of jumping up and down, she said, such as cheerleading and basketball. During recess, Brionna jumps rope.

"If people are ganging up on you, then you can have the strength to defend yourself," she said. Brionna likes eating vegetables, and said she does so because she knows they are good for her.

Brionna's classmate Nicholas Papadakis likes to eat vegetables too, and said he tries his hardest to eat the ones he doesn't like. Nicholas stays in shape with tae kwon do classes — he is a purple belt — and swimming in the summertime.

In a fast-paced area such as Fairfax County, said Haid, children can get stressed just as much as adults, which is why exercise is so important.

"Kids should have unstructured play time," she said. "Hide and seek, pickup baseball, hopscotch, jump rope, and all the unstructured things that kids can get out and do instead of staying inside and playing video games."