Featured TLC Coach
This month, Shai Baca, Teen Leader at YMCA Aurora, CO is our Coach of the Month! She coordinates the “Y” Teen Leaders who have taken on The LifeStar Challenge™ program as one of their service projects. Shai schedules and facilitates 10 teens who go out to area Aurora YMCA Afterschool based sites to coach younger kids on the program. To date the “Y” Teen Leaders have taught lessons at 5 schools to approximately 150 kids. We love Shai’s enthusiasm and commitment to the program!
“After the Y leaders learned about the Healthy Life Star program, I have seen many of these teens grow into awesome leaders and role models in the community. Dedicated to this program, the Y Leaders have taught the LifeStar Challenge lessons to many elementary schoolers throughout Aurora, CO. The elementary school aged youth always seem enthusiastic to learn from these teenagers. These youths seem to gain a better awareness of the importance of living a healthy life style. It’s neat to see these youths make healthy goals and have fun getting up and being active.” –Shai Baca
This month our coach of the month is Eunice Rivera from the Ohio Hispanic Coalition in Ohio! Eunice is very dedicated to making the Healthy LifeStars program engaging and making every child participate. Not only that, but she takes the time to ensure that each child is truly understanding the curriculum. She is constantly providing examples of healthy food and living the Healthy LifeStars curriculum through example.
Thank you so much, Eunice, for all you do to help our program succeed!
My name is Amanda Leach and I have been a teacher for eight years. I currently teach fourth grade and this is my second year as the 21st Century After School STEAM Program Coordinator at William T. Machan School which is located in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. We are a Title 1 school proudly serving a population of over 90% latino families. 100% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The Lifestars Challenge provides health and nutrition education to our students who participate in the after school program. Healthy Lifestars also provides our students opportunities to set and achieve personal fitness goals with the support of a coach. Our students love learning about how to eat well and stay healthy! They are always so excited to tell me how they earned a star! Ultimately, this incredible program is helping our students here at Machan to try new things.
This month, Amy Johnson, an Open World Learning-(OWL) site teacher at Colfax Elementary in Denver, CO is our Coach of the Month! Amy has taught The LifeStar Challenge program since fall 2017. She teaches the LifeStar Challenge lesson on Monday afternoons during a break from OWL’s session times. She has the kids decide as a group their “I Can Do It” goal, she gives all kids a paper star for motivation then on Thursday’s she follows up with them again as a group and gives a plastic star to those who (stated) met their goals. We love Amy’s follow up method, dedication, and commitment to the program!
“The Healthy LifeStar program instills healthy decision-making skills into children at an age where they are starting to make lifetime habit choices.” Amy Johnson
This month, Cera Cole from the Broad Street United Methodist Church Freedom School Summer Camp is our Coach of the Month! She delivered the “I Eat Right!” lessons to the campers, but she also oversaw cooking healthy lunches for the kids and leading by example. By cooking healthy and balanced meals with lots of vegetables, Cera truly lived what we try to embody at Healthy LifeStars.
“I really liked the program because all of the kids were really engaged and asking questions about healthy foods and how to incorporate them into their daily lives. It was cool to be a part of that!” -Cera Cole
Coaches of the Month-This month we would like to feature 2 Coaches in Colorado, Melinda Gentry and Jessica Hibbert, from Lily Gulch Recreation Center within Foothills Parks and Recreation district in Jefferson County, CO. Melinda and Jessica started “The LifeStar Challenge” program this summer and use the lessons during their 12-week S.T.E.A.M.in Motion summer camp. TLC lessons are given 3 days per week and these coaches hope to complete all 36 lessons by the end of camp in Mid-August! Kids are loving the program and the coaches believe the lessons integrate well with the STEAM theme of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.
Jessica Hibbert (Left) and Melinda Gentry (right) during HLS program Kick-Off in May at Lily Gulch Recreation Center in May 28, 2018.
Colorado Coach of the Month is Spencer “Gus” Thomason, Owl Site Coordinator at Wyatt Elementary in Denver, CO. “Gus” was instrumental in leading his Owl students at Wyatt to participate in the HLS Step-A-Thon in April. Using a pedometer and tracking steps was a first for his OWL students, which helped create awareness to the students about the importance of getting active by increasing their daily steps. He has also been committed to enhancing the lessons by finding and adding fun video clips pertaining to various LifeStar Challenge lesson topics. Gus’s commitment and dedication to the program is inspirational!
Coach Ricky has been working in education and fitness for the last sixteen years and teaching P.E. the last two. Coach Ricky has been very lucky to have been a part of some great organizations here in Scottsdale which include The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale, City of Scottsdale Parks, and Rec and Scottsdale Unified School District he also coaches baseball at Coronado High School. He enjoys being a positive role model for his students to look up to. We are very lucky to be able to partner up with Healthy LifeStars program here at Hirsch Academy! Our students have learned so much on fitness and living a healthy lifestyle that will benefit them for a lifetime. Our students here at Hirsch Academy love the program! Everyone here at Hirsch Academy wants to give a big THANK YOU to Healthy LifeStars!
Elaine Lopez with Denver Parks and Recreation brings The LifeStar ChallengeTM Program alive to more than 40 kids through nutritional cooking classes, exercise, and goal setting. Elaine Lopez, a strong advocate for Healthy LifeStars and The LifeStar ChallengeTM Program, has been earnestly working with Denver Parks and Recreation youth in health, wellness, and goal setting since 2015. Elaine has a background in program management, fitness and Zumba instruction and knowledge in nutrition. She loves to encourage people to live an active and health conscious life. She has worked with kids for over 20 years in various capacities and enjoys bringing laughter and building a positive attitude while challenging kids to learn and grow. As a result of her enthusiasm, Denver Parks and Recreation has implemented Healthy Life Stars Program in its Recreation Centers across the city. Elaine travels to centers with a large gathering of kids, the amenities to support cooking nutritious foods and space for physical fitness activities to run the program. “What I like the most about the LifeStar Challenge is being able to educate, encourage and motivate kids to be active and eat a variety of healthy snacks and also helping them set goals toward health. I guess that means the entire program! This program has also helped me in working toward my health goals and challenges. I would like to see this program aim toward not just teaching kids but reaching the whole family!”
Yvette H. is the Physical Education Teacher at Stanfield Elementary School, Stanfield Arizona. Yvette started using The Life Challenge ProgramTM four years ago, after hearing about it at an AZHPE Convention. Yvette enjoys being a Healthy LifeStar Coach because her students are gaining great tools that will help them to be active and healthy for a lifetime. She coaches sports after school and runs The Life Challenge ProgramTM through her PE classes. Yvette finds the lesson plans to be very helpful and easy to integrate into her PE lesson plans. In addition, the Program teaches goals to the students, giving the students more ownership and motivation to work harder. The response from the students is excitement because they have something tangible to show for their hard work and good choices.
Peter Petrides is the Physical Education Teacher at Santa Cruz Elementary in the Maricopa Unified School District. “Mr. P” as he is known by his students, is a very enthusiastic coach who enjoys doing The LifeStar Challenge with his Kindergarten, first and second grade classes every Wednesday. He enjoys teaching the kids about nutrition and the importance of being active. Nonetheless, his favorite part is to use the “I Can Do It!” lessons. The kids also enjoy earning stars while working on “I Can Do It!”. When they do these lessons, they can be found on the Santa Cruz soccer field doing their best and encouraging their peers by saying “You Can Do It Too!”. Thanks to his infectious enthusiasm and his commitment to Healthy LifeStars, Mr. P. earns this month’s LifeStar Coach of the Month! Congratulations Mr. P!
Captain Kathy Merritt, The Salvation Army Sun Cities West Valley Corps, writes: “Healthy Life Stars – It’s not just for the fun! Each week the Salvation Army Sun Cities West Valley Corps reaches out to about 50 children twice a week. On Wednesdays we offer a “Creative Arts” evening where the children learn about singing, playing brass instruments, drama and different art forms. On Sundays we see the kids again for our “Troops”, an activity group that learns different life skills that are age appropriate. As the children complete tasks in assigned areas, they earn badges to display on their uniform. During this time with the kids they also complete some sort of exercise regimen. They may run laps around the building, or move through an obstacle course race or maybe take turns at different stations doing sit ups, pushups, squats and such. They love to move and so these activities are especially fun for the kids. During both of these events the kids are hungry, with a capital H! So, we take the opportunity to incorporate The LifeStar Challenge food pyramid into their day. When they receive their lunch, dinner and/or snack they are quizzed on what each item on their plate is. Is it a protein? A carb? And why is it important to eat from each food group? The kids are quickly learning that carbs give energy, protein builds muscle, and so much more. The special people that make The LifeStars Challenge program possible, need to be applauded because this program helps the kids learn to eat healthy, create good habits for future health, and appreciate the goodness that God provides to all of us through the gift of food! Some children have come to us on Sunday saying that they have not had a meal since school on Friday – so way beyond proteins and carbs this program is helping to feed these kids and keep them from being hungry. We, and 50 of the Sun City kids say – THANK YOU Healthy Life Stars for caring about us!”
2016 Coach of the Year
LifeStar Coach Marami Abbadessa, who runs The LifeStar Challenge for her students at Saddleback Elementary School in Maricopa, doesn’t just teach kids how to be active, eat right, and set goals – she shows them how to live an active, healthy life every day. Her passion for healthy living and her commitment to educating and motivating kids through The LifeStar Challenge have earned Marami Healthy LifeStars’ 2016 Coach of the Year honor. “Marami is always full of energy and embodies everything we strive to teach the kids,” said Julie Frankel, Healthy LifeStars Executive for Development and Operations. “She is tireless in her efforts at getting other teachers at her school involved, as she did for the Walkathon; and she involves the kids’ parents as much as possible as well. She is also a great ambassador with the other Maricopa School District teachers wanting to offer The LifeStar Challenge at their school and is always ready to help them and make them realize just how easy it is.” Coach Marami loves being active outdoors, either walking, biking, or skiing. She drinks water, watches her portions, and follows the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations. Plus, she sleeps 7-9 hours per night. “I try to do my best to be an example of a shining LifeStar individual and truly be a representation of what I teach,” she said. “I share my passion with whomever I meet.” Coach Marami has led The LifeStar Challenge at Saddleback Elementary School for the past three years. Drawn to the program by the name, Healthy LifeStars, she loves that the program focuses on an “I can do it” attitude. “I wanted to run the program to reach as many kids as possible within my daily and weekly schedule,” said Coach Marami, who has taught physical education (P.E.) at Saddleback Elementary for four years and is in her 16th year as a teacher. “By setting goals for themselves, students take personal responsibility for their health, nutrition, and activity choices. I have found that kids are more motivated when they set goals for themselves.” As a result of participating in The LifeStar Challenge, kids try more fruits and vegetables, make healthier choices at home, and enjoy new sports to stay active, she says. “I love to see kids making conscious decisions to move more or choose fruit over candy because they have learned ‘that’s what LifeStars do.’” Coach Marami motivated 22 of her students and the school’s Attendance Clerk Lori Barger to participate in the 2016 Step Up 4 Kids Walkathon. Their team finished fourth overall—an amazing feat considering all of the other teams were mainly composed of adults. Originally from Appleton, Wisconsin, Coach Marami has called Arizona home for more than 25 years. She was originally drawn to teaching by her middle school PE teacher and coach who was dedicated to his profession and inspired her to make healthy choices daily. “He lived his passion, and, as a result, thrived as a teacher and coach,” she said. She received her undergraduate degree in exercise science and physical education from Arizona State University and her master’s degree in elementary education from Northern Arizona University. Whether creating a fun cheer to motivate her students to live active, healthy lives (see Coach Marami in action here: https://youtu.be/WoWnxPvi-us), encouraging her students to get active and earn stars (hear how Coach Marami motivates her students here: https://youtu.be/dStC_ssIxoE), or leading by example, Coach Marami is truly a LifeStar! “The biggest words of advice for others that I have is to be the example, set the stage, show kids how you, yourself, can be the healthy example of a LifeStar,” she said. Congratulations to Coach Marami on being named our 2016 Coach of the Year!
Coach of the Month October 2016
When Angela Kirkpatrick was introduced to The LifeStar Challenge more than a year ago, she jumped at the opportunity to help educate kids and families about wellness, healthy eating, and being active. Angela is the case manager at The Salvation Army’s Las Vegas Horizon Crest Family Apartments, which provides low-income apartment housing for families in Nevada. Angela has succeeded in leading The LifeStar Challenge despite not having a playground or gym onsite. She has motivated kids to try new, healthy foods and take responsibility for exercising regularly. “Because the program is run at an apartment complex, I encourage families to get involved with the program,” she said. “We use the community room and back patio to play games and utilize the sports equipment. Families are encouraged to participate by using the treadmills and stationary bikes, playing with the kids, throwing footballs or engaging in a basketball game.” Kara Cline, Healthy LifeStars Program Director for The Salvation Army, applauds Angela for her warm, welcoming coaching style and ability to motivate participants—kids and adults alike. “She has such a lovely spirit, and her ability to make The LifeStar Challenge a priority in the midst of other demands is truly inspirational,” Kara said. “She’s making a real difference in the lives of those she coaches.” Angela leads The LifeStar Challenge on Mondays and Wednesday from 3-4:15 pm. Up to 15 kids participate on any given day. “Several children have become more active by moving more, playing ball, jumping rope, and walking/running on the treadmill,” she said. In fact, Arabella, one of Angela’s LifeStar participants, was pre-diabetic prior to participating in the program. Now, thanks to The LifeStar Challenge, she’s on the path to leading a healthy, active life. Read more about Arabella here. Angela has been with The Salvation Army for six years. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and received her master of science (MS) degree in counseling from the University of La Verne’s satellite office there. When she’s not motivating kids to lead healthy, active lives, Angela loves to shop, travel, try new restaurants, and spend time outdoors. Her favorite activity to enjoy with the kids is playing badminton. Angela would like to see more sites offer The LifeStar Challenge so that more kids and families, like those at Las Vegas Horizon Crest Family Apartments, can integrate healthy eating and fitness into their lifestyles.
Coach of the Month August 2016
Rachelle Skvarek believes in The LifeStar Challenge because she knows that when children are active and healthy from an early age, they develop habits that stay with them for a lifetime. With more than 25 years of experience in childcare, few have witnessed this better than Rachelle. “If we can show how being active is not a burden, it becomes easy,” Rachelle said. Originally from Virginia, Rachelle moved to Arizona at the age of 10 and has called the Grand Canyon State home ever since. She attended Phoenix College and graduated from Central Arizona College. Childcare was a natural career path for Rachelle, who has 6 children and 6 grandchildren. When Rachelle became the Childcare Director at the James Family Prescott YMCA in September 2014, she inherited The LifeStar Challenge Program. From that moment, she ran with the program—literally. Her LifeStar Challenge participants logged mile after mile in the pool, in the gym, and outside, while Rachelle weaved in lessons about nutrition and goal setting. “It’s so rewarding to see kids realize that eating healthy and being active can be easy and fun,” she said. Most recently, Rachelle oversaw three coaches at James Family Prescott YMCA who ran The LifeStar Challenge. She downloaded and organized lessons for the coaches, helping ensure that the next generation of LifeStars were educated and motivated to live active, healthy lives. This summer, nearly 150 kids participated in The LifeStar Challenge at her site. With leaders like Rachelle, The LifeStar Challenge is more than an afterschool or summer program—it’s a life-changing experience for children who need it most. “I love the idea that something that starts here at the Y can change kids’ behaviors, inspire parents, and, eventually, transform our community,” she said. “What can be better than that?” With diabetes and heart disease running in her family, Rachelle knows how important healthy living is not just for kids but also for the entire community. Rachelle has recently transitioned to Membership Director at Prescott YMCA and Elise Swank will now be overseeing The LifeStar Challenge. There’s no doubt that Rachelle will still be supporting the program. “The Y is committed to youth development and healthy living, and The LifeStar Challenge fits nicely into our goals,” Rachelle said. Thanks to champions like Rachelle, LifeStars at James Family Prescott YMCA are well on their way to living active, healthy lives today and in the future. And, they’re inspiring their parents and community along the way. A 12-year-old boy who participated in The LifeStar Challenge is a great example of this. He lives with his grandparents and is always challenging himself so that he can earn more stars. “It’s amazing to see how motivated he is and how he is inspiring others, including his grandparents,” Rachelle said.
Coach of the Month July 2016
The Salvation Army has been steadily building their Army of LifeStars with the hard work and dedication of their leadership and coaches, including program manager Nick Reyes. Nick works with Salvation Army Corps running The LifeStar Challenge, helping them get properly set up and ready to run a successful program. Nick loves this part of the job because he gets to work with so many great people in the Corps and help many kids begin to develop healthy habits. He’s also become a bit of a local celebrity with The Salvation Army kids. At almost every site he walks into, kids are wanting high fives and hugs. He loves how the program teaches the kids about setting goals and achieving said goals. He feels that it inspires them to set and achieve additional goals as well as aim for bigger goals to tackle. Nick shared with us how 11 year-old Naveah at the Phoenix Citadel Corps recently set a goal to do 100 sit ups. She was extremely determined to hit this goal and as she got closer to that magic number, Nick was amazed to watch the other kids rally around her to encourage her on. After hitting her goal, the whole group was elated and Nick smiled as he saw all the other kids start to set goals that they can tackle themselves. With leaders like Nick helping with The LifeStar Challenge, it won’t be long until this Army of LifeStars is defeating childhood obesity.
Coach of the Month June 2016
Michelin (Mimi) Roehl has always loved being active. She realized that her childhood activities and exercise allowed her to always be very energetic and happy. As an adult, she knows that it is a priority to pass that message along to her kids at Elevate Phoenix. She first started as a volunteer and then became an intern, helping launch the middle school program sponsored by The Arizona Diamondbacks. For the last hear and a half, she has been a full-time teacher/mentor at Camelback High School, which includes 24/7 mentoring for the high school students. This summer, Elevate Phoenix introduced The LifeStar Challenge to the elementary students at their camp. Mimi created an alter ego, “Ms Mimi Muscles”, complete with a costume filled with muscles. As the week progressed, her muscles got bigger and bigger. Even though they were only balloon muscles, she was amazed by the kids’ excitement about the muscles and the program. During one of the weeks, after receiving ninja training, the kids then had the opportunity to complete an American Ninja Warrior style obstacle course. This allowed the kids to learn all about the different pairs of muscles and how to properly exercise them. Ms Mimi Muscles and her staff did an amazing job getting the kids excited about eating healthy, proper exercise and setting realistic goals. With her super hero effort, the kids at Elevate Phoenix are better prepared to live happy, healthy lives. Check out this video of Coach Mimi in action.