More than Child’s Play
Catalina Franco-Cicero, wellness and ISR coordinator, teaches children in South Africa a few Zumba dance moves to the beat of Shakira’s ‘Waka Waka,’ the official song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
This past spring, 23 fourth- and fifth-graders from Hubert O. Sibley Elementary School in North Miami took part in Fun, Fit Fridays, a new program at Barry that uses physical fitness and athletics as way to transform communities.
The children who participated in the eight-week program were primarily of Haitian ancestry and came from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. Every Friday, these students walked from their school to the Barry campus to learn life skills through sports, fitness and academics.
Barry Wellness Coordinator Catalina Franco-Cicero, who is working towards her PhD, got the idea for the program after taking two graduate courses: International Sport and Community Development with Dr. Darlene Kluka and Sociology of Education with Dr. Priva Fischweicher. As part of her course work, Franco-Cicero developed the model for a program that became Fun, Fit Fridays.
During the program, which also emphasizes the empowerment and equality of women, the children worked on homework assignments and interacted with Barry student athletes. Combing these components with the idea of a healthy lifestyle is vital for children, Franco-Cicero noted, adding that there is a great need to reduce the number of children affected by Type 2 diabetes.
“By educating young students through exercise and fitness programs, we can help solve (health and childhood obesity-related) problems all over the world,” she said.
The idea of Fun, Fit Fridays is already going global. A visiting professor, Dr. Anneliese Goslin of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, sat in on Kluka’s class and was so impressed with the concept that the University of Pretoria implemented the program with youth in their area.
Franco-Cicero and Kluka had the chance to visit the University of Pretoria last summer to assess the South African Fun, Fit Fridays program and hand deliver pen pal letters from the children in the Barry program.
While in South Africa, Franco-Cicero and Kluka also met with some colleagues from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal. As a result, the duo are tentatively scheduled to go to Portugal to help get their Fun, Fit Fridays program off the ground.
According to Kluka, this program is one of the few times in her career she has seen something from the classroom make it to the real world. “There isn’t anything better, in my humble opinion,” she said.