Stephanie speaks at the 20th Anniversary Celebration

This year marked our 20th year of service and commitment to Los Angeles area youth. Our mission has always been to fight childhood obesity by empowering and equipping physical education teachers with resources that make fitness fun and effective. Through the years, we have perfected our model, learning what works best for middle and high school aged children. The research speaks for itself – children who are physically active perform better in school1. One of the many stories we hear from our teachers is that UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind students not only feel more confident after participating in our program, but they experience a positive shift in how they feel about fitness, about being healthy and how they feel about themselves. Stephanie Comacho, a senior at Arleta High School, is one of those students.

Stephanie began her freshman year as many students do, feeling insecure, seeking a sense of belonging and determined to find her way. With a body-mass index of 32.8, she was considered a health risk, according to the FitnessGram Body Composition test. Motivated by the upcoming softball season, Stephanie made it her personal goal to lose 10 pounds as a step toward making the team. Falling into poor eating habits and failed attempts at getting fit, she was unable to keep the promise she had made to herself, denying her a spot on the team. She knew something needed to change. Coach Erika Guijaro offered Stephanie an elective physical education class, which employed the UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind fitness center. One year later, she had lost 60 pounds by committing to a healthy diet and fitness plan. When she tried out for the softball team a second time, she made it – proving to herself that with effort and hard work, anything is possible.

Coach Erika played a pivotal role in Stephanie’s navigation of high school and personal development. Erika saw the potential in Stephanie and encouraged her to strive for her goals through realistic and achievable steps. Experiences like these truly shape perceptions of physical education. With the resources, ideas and guidance our program provides, teachers are able to successfully achieve more.

Photo: Stephanie speaks at the 20th Anniversary Celebration

1 Chaddock-Heyman L, Erickson KI, Kienzler C, King M, Pontifex MB, Raine LB, et al. (2015) The Role of Aerobic Fitness in Cortical Thickness and Mathematics Achievement in Preadolescent Children. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0134115. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134115