Take a look inside the gymnasium and see sixth-grader Monye Butler doing jumping jacks, push-ups on a mat and sit-ups on an exercising ball. The exercises that Butler is doing are a part of the circuit-training circle that the students at Ferguson Elementary participate in. It’s a way for the students to continue to be active by keeping their body moving during the school day.
“Gym is a lot of fun,” Butler said. “We do a lot of exercising. It’s a way for the students to keep moving. I don’t mind doing the exercises because I’m an athlete. I like playing basketball with my friends and brothers. This is another way to keep me active at school.”
Ferguson started participated in the Healthy You Positive Energy initiative (HYPE) in 2011. The initiative is between the city of Philadelphia and the school district. The program raises awareness about the importance of making activity a daily habit and ensuring kids learn healthy habits at a young age. The school was later selected to do a video as a part of the First Lady Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” campaign where they came in as a honorable mention.
“The students do a great job with this initiative,” said Dean of students and HYPE coordinator Rhonda Hicks. “Each month we try to do something different. On some occasions we have morning movement, where I call out different movements to songs over the PA system and the students do those movements. We want our kids to eat right and exercise more. What we are teaching them now will help them live a healthier lifestyle in the future.”
For eighth-grader Allen Morris-Smith, being a part of HYPE is about teaching other students the importance of being active.
“Our message is all about trying to get more kids are age moving,” Morris-Smith said. The school does a really good job of trying to help us get that message out. Through the activities that we do, we are not only staying active, but also fit.”
“It’s really all about options,” said eighth-grader Tobias Bostic. “Students here use to go to the store and get bags of chips, but now they get fruit. We eat salads as a part of our meals. It’s OK to eat things you like every now and then, but it’s all about moderation. It wasn’t easy at first, but our health and well-being is important to a lot of us. If we can do it; anybody can do it.”
In addition to its core curriculum, all Ferguson students participate in computers, gym, and music classes. Separate classes that are offered to students include strings, band, and vocal. There is also a school choir that meets everyday after school. For selected seventh and eighth students they participate in a new program at Ferguson called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID). Through the program, students learn how to be “college ready” through skills they learn in AVID classes.
“I’m a part of the strings class,” said third-grader Jada Williams. “I play the violin, it’s something that I always wanted to play and I’m happy I get to learn more about the violin here. I also play at Temple University after school on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings. I just want to keep learning as much as I can, because that will help me be a better player when I get older.”
Principal Carol Williams has been with Ferguson for 18 years. This is her first year as principal at the school. Prior to becoming principal, she was a teacher, community leader, school growth teacher, and assistant principal.
“Ferguson is home to me,” Williams said. “Our goal has always been to have our students achieve. We offer our students a variety of programs and curriculum to help them grow both mentally and personally. We want them to achieve academic excellence, but we also want them to learn life lessons in the process.”
Williams is also reaching out to parents. She will be having a parents make a difference conference later this month. The parents will get a hand-on experience of seeing what their kids are learning during school. They will get a chance to sit-in on classes and interact with the teachers, counselors, and the principal. Williams also want to start having round table discussions with parents, so that they can voice their opinions and concerns.
“This is our way of letting the parents know that there are opportunities for them to come in and talk to us; even volunteer,” Williams said. “I want them to be informed and see what we are doing while their kids are at school. The parents, staff, teachers, and myself needs to be on the same page and support one another in order to give the kids the best education experience. We all want to see the kids succeed and help them prepare for their future.”