ASTEC already had a sports and physical education program in place, said Dr. Freda Deskin, founder and CEO of ASTEC. Every hour on the hour, children are bussed from the school to a local church gymnasium where they have physical education.
“We really incorporate health and wellness into our entire school culture,” Deskin said. But more intervention is needed to curb childhood obesity.
Though ASTEC serves a high-need population, a criteria for HealthCorps to go into a school, Oz said, 92 percent of the students that graduate from ASTEC go on to college.
“That's important to us as well,” Oz said. “HealthCorps encourages students to look at career paths in health, physical activity, and nutrition.”
Filling the role of HealthCorps coordinator at ASTEC is Ryan Fightmaster, a recent University of Oklahoma graduate. Fightmaster accepted the position for two years, delaying his entrance into OU's School of Medicine to perform the important job.
All HealthCorps coordinators are recent college graduates who have deferred their education or careers for two years to serve in high-need high schools around the country.
“That's the beauty of the coordinator — they are just old enough and professional enough to command respect, but they are young and ‘current,' so in a high school student's eyes, they have credibility,” Oz said.
Fightmaster has been successful getting his students motivated, Deskin said. He's also inspired many of the teachers and staff at ASTEC with health programs such as a “Walk to Chicago” challenge for which Deskin said she's wearing a pedometer around to gauge her walking progress.
Fightmaster has also found ways to counsel many of the staff members who struggle weight issues and with diabetes.
Fightmaster himself has waged a nearly lifelong battle against type-1 diabetes — the 23-year-old was diagnosed at age 8.
He said he's been compelled by his experience with the disease to devote his career to advancing the ideals of good health and active lifestyle.
“We are sitting on this epidemic and if it's not faced, and if there's not education, and kids aren't told how they should feel about being healthy and if they can't actually feel what it's like to be healthy, then were going to be in trouble,” Fightmaster said.
As HealthCorps coordinator, Fightmaster teaches the ASTEC high school and middle school students about all aspects of health, nutrition and fitness.
During the month of intensive training he underwent through HealthCorps, Fightmaster said he was trained in everything from healthy cooking and nutrition to teaching yoga. He's been on the job at ASTEC full-time since Aug. 5.
“Our real goal is for our students to graduate and become community leaders with an eye for health,” Fightmaster said. “I want to open up the eyes of people to what is possible when you live a healthy life. Because we really can't achieve everything we're supposed to unless our mind is fit, our body is fit and we're ready to go out and achieve.”
Since HealthCorps began, Oz said its positive affects on the kids whose lives it touches can be seen in decreases in sugary soda consumption, more physical activity (participants reported they were 36 percent more likely to be active) and 10.7 percent higher health knowledge test scores.