$10,000 award goes to groundbreaking health and wellness program at local Jr. High.
The Sierra Vista Physical Education program is riding high after the most recent shot in the arm, as department head George Velarde was awarded a Gold medal by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness in a Sports Spotlight Award ceremony in Sacramento this week. As a Gold Medalist, Velarde was selected from a pool of over 700 applicants and he will receive $10,000 for his school’s P.E. program.
Since 2002, Velarde has given a head to toe makeover of Sierra Vista’s PE program.
“We started this process back in 2002, changing our philosophy from the old PE to the new PE,” Velarde said. “That is of course, switching from traditional sports to teaching about health and wellness. That’s now our number one priority.”
After that core philosophy change, Velarde has led the charge in transforming the PE building into a fitness mecca for kids. Resistance machines and a rock climbing wall accent a slew of flat screen televisions, which are a part of cutting edge interactive video games. In these games students run, jump, and otherwise control the characters and scenarios on screen with their body movements. Outdoor activity is also integrated into the stringent weekly programs, as is aerobics and nutritional instruction. Each P.E. teacher at the school has received a class set of heart rate monitors and pedometers used to collect information on students’ personal fitness, which is tracked throughout the year.
The community surrounding Sierra Vista has also played a major role in supporting the program, as yearly fundraisers have funded the new equipment purchases.
“We fundraise every year to maintain the program and to continue building the program,” Velarde said. “We try to do as much as we can to bring in money, especially with these budget cuts. We have to be very creative on what we do here at Sierra Vista.”
The program has had a major effect on student fitness. Over the past five years, the percentage of Sierra Vista students scoring in the Healthy Fitness Zone on the State Physical Fitness Test has increased significantly and is now the highest in the Hart District and one of the highest in the state.
“For everything we’re doing here at Sierra Vista, we have validation and accountability,” Velarde remarked.
Learn more about Sierra Vista’s state of the art program in this previous KHTS article.
The Spotlight Awards recognize the efforts of principals, teachers, non-profit organizations, events, park programs, parent associations and schools that positively impact the physical activity, fitness levels and wellbeing of California children.
The Sports Spotlight Awards are presented by the Anthem Blue Cross Foundation. Three schools from across the state were named grand prize winners in addition to the nine categories of Gold Medalists. Eleven districts also received recognition as School Districts of the Year. Velarde won the highest recognition possible in the Teacher of the Year category.