Region 8 students fighting childhood obesity with technology

WEINER, AR (KAIT) – Two students at the Harrisburg School District's Weiner campus have been working to get their fellow classmates healthier over the last three years.

According to Patricia Carroll, FCCLA teacher at Weiner High School, several students have dropped a few inches from their waistlines after two students showed them how to properly diet and exercise. The students were even recognized by Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe for their studies on childhood obesity.

"They chose childhood obesity and when I had them in class in 7th grade, I discussed two main concerns for the next generation and our generation as well is the obesity rate is going up and debt. Everyone, they don't know how to manage their money," said Carroll. "They chose the applied technology, which involves a technology piece to run a project."

Carroll said Joshua Lucero and Destiny Hicks have been working together for at least two years on childhood obesity research. Carroll also said Katherine Scott helped in the project last year. All three students are high school freshman this year.

"It's a worldwide problem, and mainly for the United States, it is the southern states because of all the fried foods and things that we like to eat," said Lucero.

Lucero said Carroll advised him of a new web-site designed to track what a person eats and how much physical activity they get each day. He said the web-site, Fuel Up to Play 60, has helped him improve eating habits among his family. Click here to visit the web-site.

"Arkansas' obesity rate is actually the third highest in the United States with a percent of 30.5," said Lucero, who is working on a project to analyze the benefits of eating a healthy breakfast. "Eating fried foods makes us full of energy for a short point of time and then we're kind of lazy. We're laid back and we don't want to do anything."

The FCCLA holds competitions annually, where members can compete among other students to develop leadership skills. Lucero's project was included in the STAR (Students Taking Action with Recognition) program.

"You have to create a pledge and then sign your name on this pledge. We printed off paper pledges and students will sign the pledge saying they will fuel up by doing this and energize my body by doing this and eat healthy by doing this," said Lucero.

Lucero said his project reached out to younger students last year. He said this year's goal is to sign up high school students for the "Fuel Up to Play 60" program.

"You can't only say things. You have to act on them too. Instead of just telling other kids and teaching them that eating junk food and stuff and not eating breakfast or getting sufficient amount of sleep or exercising is good for you, I needed to also do that," said Lucero.

"When we were in Little Rock, they asked me should we keep chocolate milk or should it go away since it has more sugar than regular white milk and I said no, because even if it is sweeter, you still need it because it has all that calcium and nutrition in it," said Hicks. "You can go on the computer and they'll have a tray, and you can put what you ate on it, and then you have a basket and you put what sport you played in and how long you played."

Hicks, who cooks for her family nightly just as Lucero does, said she's learned to cook healthier for her family.

"I used to cook chicken fried stuff. Instead I go and put it on a grill so it'd be less fat and you wouldn't have all that grease," said Hicks. "Instead of having a full plate where you can barely see the plate, I'd have small portions of everything and I've gotten my family to do that a little bit."

Aside from the accomplishments at Weiner, the Harrisburg School District was also presented with the Healthier US School Challenge award in Washington, D.C.

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