LifeStar of the Month 2018-09-07T06:31:46-07:00

LifeStar Student of the Month September 2018


Daniela, Age 9, attends the Open World Learning (OWL) afterschool-based program at Colfax Elementary, Denver CO. Her site coach, Amy, recommended her because she had observed Daniela become more conscious about her eating choices during this past school year. Daniela would come to the program the day after a Healthy LifeStar lesson and talk all about how she chose fruit over candy the night before. She also told Coach Amy that “I like trying new foods now too!” By the middle of the program she also made the choice to get up and play rather than sit and talk with her friends during free play days. Daniela is a LifeStar and choosing healthier habits because of The LifeStar Challenge!







LifeStar of the Month August 2018

Zariah from the Broad Street United Methodist Church Freedom School Summer Camp is our LifeStar of the Month. Zariah was nominated by her coach Grecca because she was always very enthusiastic about Healthy LifeStars and listened very well! Not only could Zariah answer most of the questions that our coaches asked during the summer camp, but her commitment to being active and integrating the Healthy LifeStars lessons into her daily life will help her live a healthier life. Zariah’s favorite lessons were the “I Eat Right” lessons because she has learned so much about why certain foods are unhealthy and how to eat more fruits and vegetables. She also learned more fun physical activities to play with her friends. Good job, Zariah!







LifeStar of the Month July 2018


Natalie Johnson– age 10, Lily Gulch Recreation Center, Littleton, CO. TLC Coach Melinda Gentry recommended Natalie Johnson as this month’s TLC student of the month because of Natalie’s enthusiasm and commitment to the program. Natalie attends almost every TLC session during the STEAM summer camp and has learned to eat several new fruits and vegetables as a result of TLC. Natalie is somewhat of a picky eater and through TLC she has learned to like mangos and asparagus which she now asks her mom to buy at the grocery store.



Natalie Johnson (right) with her sister (left) tasting fresh mango during the HLS program kick off in late May.



LifeStar of the Month June 2018


Alberto is an active first grader who participates in The LifeStar Challenge™ at Yavapai Elementary.  Alberto lives with his grandparents because his parents are in Guatemala. He loves his Grandma’s cooking!  His favorite food is rice and beans. “I can eat my Grandma’s rice and beans every day!  They make me strong, look at how high I can jump!”  He wants to be a basketball player when he grows up just like his favorite player Devin Booker. “I want to play with the Suns when I grow up!”, Alberto says with a big grin.

Thanks to the LifeStar Challenge™, Alberto has learned many things about food. “I gotta eat right so I can grow to be tall, like Devin!”  “I eat more fruits and vegetables now, see, I got an apple and a salad with my torta (sandwich in Spanish)!”.  “I called my Mom in Guatemala to tell her!  She got very excited!”  Alberto has embraced the Healthy Habit of Eating Right. He is a true LifeStar.



LifeStar of the Month March 2018

Abby Molines

Before Abby joined Open World Learning (OWL) and Healthy LifeStars (HLS) this past fall she didn’t really do anything after school. She would come home, watch TV, be on the cell phone and eat snacks. Abby wanted to do more. OWL and HLS motivated her to find a physical activity she enjoys. Abby was always interested in karate so she started going to classes in the evenings. She reached a high brown belt in Tae Kwon Do/Tang Soo Do and is working towards completing everything to achieve black belt testing.

Abby has committed to The LifeStar Challenge mantra “I Can Do It” as you may see from her quotes below.

“Healthy LifeStars has helped me to set and meet goals. My main goal is to get my black belt in karate. I’m working on eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting down on chips on a daily basis, and getting to bed earlier at night so I can be more focused at school and with karate. I have also met more friends at karate classes and I’ve been encouraging them to meet their goals. Healthy LifeStars has given me encouragement to perform in karate and come to class prepared.”

Abby, age 11. Open World Learning @Stevens Elementary, Denver, CO.


LifeStar of the Month January 2018

Meet Emily, a fifth grader at Cesar Chavez Leadership Academy in Phoenix. Read on…

Emily is painfully aware that she is overweight. She says a few months ago while sitting on a park bench with her grandmother, her grandmother offered her money as an incentive if she exercised and lost weight. Emily felt so very bad. She knows she has a problem with her weight, but she does not like to bring attention to it. She does not like to be told she is fat.

Emily loves her grandmother, and knows that she was trying to help. Emily says: “I don’t blame my gramma; she loves me and wants what is best for me, but it really hurt me.”

Emily likes to play soccer, and plays after school. She says: “I am pretty good at it!” “I dribble the ball pretty good, watch!” Emily does well to dribble the ball. Unfortunately, she is unable to play the whole game before becoming too tired to continue. Her school has started a before-school running club using The LifeStar Challenge. Emily has enthusiastically joined because she does not want to be “the fat kid anymore”. Emily says that she wants to be able to share clothes and swap jeans with her cousins. “I want my gramma to be proud of me!” She joins the running club as they all cheer: “I am Active, I Eat Right, I Can Do It!”. Emily is a LifeStar!



LifeStar of the Month December 2017

Aaron Jimenez is in 3rd grade and goes to the after-school program at Harvey Park Recreation Center within Denver Parks and Recreation District. He started participating in The LifeStar Challenge (TLC) this past fall. Before he participated in TLC, he mainly chose hot Cheetos as his snack after school and spent many afternoons watching TV or playing video games. Prior to joining TLC and when he did go to the rec center, Aaron had a hard time keeping up with the other kids and felt isolated. He really wanted to be a part of the group.  His TLC coach at the center taught sessions which encouraged and helped motivate Aaron to make some healthy eating and physical activity lifestyle changes. He started playing outside more with his brothers and friends and really applied himself to many of the running games offered during TLC.  Aaron now feels more included and has become an advocate to his peers for a healthier life.

Aaron also started choosing healthier snacks such as fruit, his favorites are apples, plums, & pears. He tried raspberries for the first time while making Grinch fruit kabobs with TLC group before Christmas.  Because of tasting a variety of new fruits during TLC healthy eating sessions, he now asks his mom to purchase them at the grocery store. Thanks to TLC Aaron is now a LifeStar, he plays outside more with his friends, participates in the running game activities at the center and chooses healthier snacks.



LifeStar of the Month September 2017

Maricela is 12 years old and loves to dance, swim and play with kids her age.  She does not have many opportunites to do those activities.  Her school only has PE class every other week and there is no swimming pool to enjoy.

Maricela is a latchkey kid who every day after school takes the school bus to get home, where she stays by herself.  She locks the door and calls her mom to let her know she arrived safely and everything is all right.  Usually, she sits in front of the television watching her favorite shows grabbing a snack of sweets or chips until her mom comes home with dinner from the local drive-through restaurant.

When summer was approaching, Maricela’s mom was concerned about leaving Maricela alone for 9 – 10 hours each day while she worked.  She is a single mother and money is tight, and she does the best she can to provide for her daugther.  Her church told her about The Salvation Army Kroc Center near Maricela’s school.  After talking with the Center coordinator and showing her financial needs, Maricela received a full scholarship to The Salvation Army Kroc Center.  The Salvation Army Kroc Center is one of several youth serving organizations that partner with Healthy LifeStars to bring the best program to the kids.

On the first day at the Kroc Center, Maricela joined The LifeStar Challenge Summer Program™.   She learned about the three healthy life habits while having fun exercising, playing tag with others, and jumping rope.  Maricela loves The LifeStar Challenge Summer Program™ and looks forward continuing the program when school starts.  She said: “I really learned a lot of good things about being healthy.  I am active, I eat right, and I can do it!”  She is looking forward to attending at least three times a week during the school year.  “I think I am going to try volleyball this fall and swimming lessons”.  Maricela’s mom is seeing a positive difference in Maricela’s attitude and energy and wants to find quick and easy healthy recipes to introduce into their diet.   Thanks to the LifeStar Challenge Program, Maricela is a very happy LifeStar Program participant.



LifeStar of the Month July 2017

Giancarlos, a third grade student at Yavapai Elementary School, loves soccer and plays this sport as much as possible at his school and in his neighborhood park with his older brother and friends. Giancarlos’ mother signed him up on a soccer league in the spring so that he could play the sports he loves. Giancarlos is very good at dribbling the ball. However, he used to lose his wind very fast once a game got fast-paced.

Coach Harvey began using The LifeStar Challenge in February 2017. Giancarlo loves the incentives. He likes to see how he is doing on the wall chart and to get the stars for his lanyard! Coach Harvey sees every day the effects of poor nutrition on some of the students at Yavapai. He uses the program to emphasize the need for good nutrition.

Giancarlos heard Coach Harvey talk about how bad some foods, like Takis, Cheetos, and other high caloric foods can be for a person and how they can reduce one’s energy. Giancarlos asked his mother to send him to school with a fruit and a yogurt in the morning. He has also started to experiment eating the school free breakfast. Giancarlos mother has changed some of her purchasing practices. As a result, the whole family is eating healthier.

Giancarlos energy is higher and he does not run out of stamina in fast-paced games. His brother feels he is doing better too.


LifeStar of the Month June 2017

Johnny struggles with daily needs and wants each day. At 10 years old, he wants to become a mechanic like his dad. Some days, after school, he helps his dad at the shop. He loves to help with vacuuming, windshield washing and setting up cover mats on the floor of the vehicles.

Johnny lives in Stanfield, Arizona, a small community surrounded by desert with very limited resources for its residents. Stanfield is a “food desert” where the only market in town has very limited healthy food options. Residents of Stanfield must travel 13 miles to Casa Grande to get other foods and even pharmacy services.

Johnny struggles with his weight, his family only has one vehicle and healthy food choices are not always available. The family’s diet has a preponderance of refined carbs, saturated fat, and processed foods; it is not unusual to see the family including soda in their meals.

Johnny is very overweight and is the victim of bullying in school. Johnny feels lonely, without friends; he can’t keep up with the other kids when they play soccer or tag. His PE coach, Yvette Hernandez, uses The LifeStar Challenge Program™ as a regular part of her PE curriculum during the school year. Johnny loves learning about eating right and exercising. Johnny says, “I feel better when other kids play with me.” Healthy LifeStars is going to help me become faster and a better player. It is great!” He talked to his mom about adding more vegetables and fruit to the whole family’s diet, and to eliminate sugary drinks. Johnny also has asked for better snacks for school, he told his mom that he needs energy. After hearing Johnny’s enthusiasm for fitness and nutrition, Johnny’s mom decided to make one trip a week to Casa Grande to buy fresh, healthy food. Johnny’s mom told us, “ I want my children to grow up healthy and productive as adults.”


LifeStar of the Month February 2017

Nevaeh is a 2nd grade student at Saddleback Elementary School in the Maricopa Unified School District.  Her classroom teacher, Mrs. Hoellwarth says “Nevaeh is a fantastic student with an “I can do it!” attitude. She always follows the rules and helps others.”

Nevaeh has always enjoyed activities that get her moving around, like jumping rope and running. And while she did them because they are fun, she did not know how important they were for her development into becoming a stronger child.

Nevaeh says “I love to earn the stars because they show that I am getting good at PE!” She can’t wait until the end of the school year when she gets to take home her lanyard with all of the stars she earned.  She says that she shares what she is learning through The LifeStar Challenge with her family. Nevaeh also knows that nutrition is important so she eats fruits such as strawberries and grapes, and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and cucumbers.  When she goes grocery shopping with her mom, Nevaeh uses her LifeStar knowledge to ask for healthier options. About The LifeStar Challenge Nevaeh says “I have fun and feel good about myself!”. Congrats Nevaeh – you are a shining example of what a LifeStar truly represents.


LifeStar of the Month January 2017

Andre Ross has been going to Eisenhower Recreation Center for quite a while and he loves the activities there. He got his MY Denver card right when the program began. Whether he is playing in the gym or participating with the programs, he loves being active.

Since the beginning of the school year Andre has been a regular, and fairly consistent, participant of The LifeStars Challenge classes. He says that before he began the classes he only knew that eating healthy was important because his mom told him so. Now, he knows why. The LifeStars Challenge classes teach him about nutrition and food balance and limiting, or eliminating, bad food choices.

When asked, what he liked most about the Healthy LifeStars Program, Andre said “I love to make the food!” He practices what he learns and he shares tips on eating healthy with his friends and family. He says that “Healthy LifeStars is a really good program because it helps kids get healthy fast, and stay healthy!”

Quincy, MY Denver Instructor, says of Andre:

Over the past number of months Andre has proven himself to be a great asset to the Healthy LifeStars program. His energy and enthusiasm regarding the various physical exercises radiates, and affects all other participants of the program. Likewise, his knowledge and interest in healthy eating habits proves his aptitude in such matters, as well as his engagement in the program. Andre is often one of the first to answer questions about fitness and food and his understanding of why these things are so important is insurmountable by many of the other participants. Personally, I am proud of Andre for showing such strong interest and initiative in a way that directly and positively impacts his peers and the program as a whole.

Elaine, The LifeStars Challenge Coach, says:

“Andre is always full of positivity and contagious energy. I have truly enjoyed having him participate in the Healthy LifeStars program. He keeps a smile on his face and always gives good insight into our discussions about being healthy. I feel that he is a great example of what a Healthy LifeStars kid is and that is why I have selected him as Healthy LifeStars of the month.”

LifeStar of the Month December 2016

LifeStar Zavion loves to be active and encourages his peers to do the same. Zavion Gonzalez dreams of a career as a professional football player. Thanks to The LifeStar Challenge, Zavion may be well on his way to achieving his goal. The 10-year-old is December’s LifeStar of the Month because he “always participates in each activity to the best of his ability … and is a positive influence on his peers,” according to Erik Scales, The LifeStar Challenge Coach and Corps Program Director at The Salvation Army Tucson Amphi Corps Community Center.

Zavion, who is in fifth grade, has participated in The LifeStar Challenge for two years. Not surprisingly, playing football with friends ranks as his favorite activity. He believes in the importance of The LifeStar Challenge’s three core components—being active, eating right, and setting goals—because being fit helps him perform better, eating right helps him take care of his body, and setting goals is fun, especially when he achieves his goals.

Outside of The LifeStar Challenge, Zavion reads, helps around the house, and watches Netflix. He has one sister, Neveah, who also participates in The LifeStar Challenge.

“He is a good sport, plays fair, and encourages others,” Coach Scales said. “He is an outstanding young man.”

LifeStar of the Month one minute, professional running back or tight end in the NFL the next? With Zavion’s determination, love for being active, and great goal-setting abilities, he’s not only on track to lead an active, healthy life, but also he might be the next Ezekiel Elliott or Rob Gronkowski.


LifeStar of the Month October 2016

Ashton Marsella finished with the most steps for kids in the second annual Step Up 4 Kids Walkathon to combat childhood obesity. Meet fourth-grade student Ashton Marsella, October’s LifeStar of the Month. When Ashton sets his mind to something, nothing stands in his way. His scooter broke a few weeks ago, so Ashton walks to school. When Ashton’s PE teacher and LifeStar Challenge Coach Marami Abbadessa encouraged Ashton and his classmates to participate in Healthy LifeStars’ Step Up 4 Kids Walkathon, Ashton didn’t just sign up—he finished as the top kid.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Ashton, when asked about what finishing first feels like. “It’s important to stay active, which I like to do.”

By walking to school and doing his favorite activity—running around at recess, during PE, after school, during The LifeStar Challenge, and while playing games with friends—Ashton accumulated 123,813 steps during the 8-day challenge. Logging the equivalent of 55 miles, Ashton tallied more steps than 90% of the adults who participated in the challenge.

His fellow classmates Blake Brasher and Jesse Stevens also racked up more than 100,000 steps during the fun. The trio helped lead their team of 19 other Saddleback Elementary school classmates, together with Coach Abbadessa and their school’s Attendance Clerk Lori Barger, to a 4th place finish in the Walkathon team competition, outperforming 14 other teams.

Ashton thinks participating in The LifeStar Challenge and staying active are important in helping kids like him maintain a healthy weight. “I like all foods,” he said. “Lots of kids are overweight, and being active is easy.”

When Ashton isn’t running around in PE or at recess, he likes to hula-hoop, swim, and run around while playing “Cops and Robbers” with his friends. He hopes to be a cop one day. Based on his success with the Walkathon, Ashton should have no trouble adding “officer” to his lineup of accomplishments.

LifeStar of the Month August 2016

Meet 11-year-old Fernanda who loves living an active, healthy life. For 11-year-old Fernanda, giving her all in The LifeStar Challenge comes naturally. She dreams of being a volleyball trainer or veterinarian one day, and she knows that either will require hard work and setting goals. Her LifeStar Challenge Coach Elaine Lopez at Denver Parks and Recreation’s Globeville Recreation Center has no doubts that Fernanda can make either a reality. After all, Coach Lopez nominated Fernanda for the LifeStar of the Month honor because of her determination and great attitude.

“Fernanda always comes to The LifeStar Challenge excited about whatever the lesson is and gives it her all every day,” Coach Lopez said.

Fernanda snacked on a peach while she told us about her family, her dreams, and what she enjoys most about The LifeStar Challenge. The third of four children, Fernanda lives with her parents and siblings in Denver’s Globeville neighborhood. Even though she has been enjoying activities at the Globveille Recreation Center for three years, this summer was her first participating in The LifeStar Challenge.

“I will definitely be participating in the program again,” she said. “I love learning how to get stronger and live healthier. And, my parents now eat healthier because I share what I learn with them.”

Fernanda was born in Denver and has called the city home for all 11 years of her life. She’ll be entering 6th grade this fall and loves math, reading, and P.E. Her favorite activity is running around, and her favorite foods are mangos, strawberries, and peaches. While she prefers obstacles courses and water balloon fights to indoor sports, you can bet that she’s the first to the volleyball court whenever the opportunity arises.

“One of the things that I learned in The LifeStar Challenge is how much sugar some foods have,” she said. “I was so surprised that some things I never thought would have sugar in them, but I learned they have a lot of sugar that I don’t need.”

For earning LifeStar of the Month honors, Fernanda will be gearing up for the next season of The LifeStar Challenge with a new pair of shoes, thanks to our partnership with SKECHERS. She hopes to inspire other kids to join the program and “get stronger and healthier.”

See what Fernanda has to say about The LifeStar Challenge.

LifeStar of the Month July 2016

July 2016 LifeStar
Mary Jane loves The LifeStar Challenge. Her favorite part of the program so far was going to the grocery store with the class and being able to pick an item for the healthy meal they were going to prepare together. Because she loves smoothies, picking out some bananas and strawberries was easy.

As 25 kids and their coaches from The Salvation Army Kroc Center wandered the aisles at the local grocery store, each looking for a healthy ingredient for their meal, Coach Dwight teaches them about healthy alternatives to everyday items. Whether it’s substituting whole grain bread for white, using almond milk as your smoothie base or replacing iceberg lettuce with spinach, there are tons of easy, small changes that can make a big difference in how healthy your meal can be.

Back at the Kroc Center, as the coaches and kids grilled their Paninis and whipped up some smoothies, we found out how much 3rd grader Mary Jane learned from the program – how much exercise you need and a lot about eating healthy. She spends the fitness portion of the program by running laps around the track and one of her goals is to be able to run a billion laps! Quite a goal, don’t you agree? And when she’s not racking up the laps, she and the other kids were working on quite an interesting challenge: creating the actual program and routine for an hour long workout class that was exhibited for their parents during their fitness recital.

Mary Jane is a hard worker who also loves volleyball and scoring goals when playing soccer. She has been improving her eating habits and increasing her stamina through The LifeStar Challenge and we are proud to call her our LifeStar of the Month!

LifeStar of the Month June 2016She loves mango smoothies and works hard at every practice. Meet June's LifeStar of the Month Kailee Leitch

After speaking to 10 year old Kailee Leitch from Tempe Family YMCA, you can’t help but walk away impressed. She loves to stay active with gymnastics, volleyball, badminton and ping pong. She is also taking swim, modern dance and hip hop lessons. She is working hard to complete her goal of mastering the dance moves for a performance at the end of the session. On top of that, she loves hiking and biking with her aunt.

When she’s not busy with all the dancing and swimming, she loves to jump into the kitchen and cook. One of her favorite things to make are mango smoothies and she simply can’t get enough of those wonderful mangos. And one of her cooking goals is to learn how to make her uncle’s famous corn salad.

Kailee enjoys The LifeStar Challenge because she’s learning about new ways to work out from Coach Scott and different ways to eat healthy. As LifeStar of the Month, she will be receiving a free pair of shoes from Skechers! Congratulations on all of your hard work Kailee and keep it up!

LifeStar of the Month May 2016

Captain Joe Cisneros was working away when parents came into his office asking what he had been teaching the kids during his after school program. Wondering what they could be upset about, he explained that they had been teaching the kids about portion size, introducing new fruits and vegetables and cutting out the junk food. The parents told him how for the last month the girls had been asking for more fruits and vegetables at dinner and are only having one plate of dinner instead of two.

That leads us to our LifeStars of the Month, Rosie (9 years old) and Angela (11 years old). Before coming to The Salvation Army Maryvale and participating in The LifeStar Challenge, the girls mainly snacked on Hot Cheetos and taquitos. They also routinely ate second servings at mealtime. With the help of Coach Joe and his team, the girls are not only being active and eating healthy during the program, but they are taking responsibility for their actions and continuing their hard work at home.

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