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Paying health forward for my students
March 22nd, 2012
01:30 PM ET

Paying health forward for my students

Editor's Note: Carlos Solis is an elementary school teacher from Ontario, California, and a member of the 2012 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge team known as "The Lucky 7."  Each team member is given the tools they need to prepare to compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

As a teacher, I have always wanted to “pay it forward;" I believe that comes out of gratitude for making it out of something a lot of kids I hung around with didn’t.

One special teacher, Mr. Shackleton, helped me believe I could change my life. Prior to becoming a teacher in 1997, I held down various jobs but I was always volunteering to help kids. I even worked at a group home as a house parent for abused and neglected children.

If you are a teacher reading this, the term “making a difference” means something to you. For me, it means doing whatever it takes to help make a difference in the life of any student I come into contact with.

Along with a quality education, I have always worked to instill character values to help students overcome obstacles in their lives: bullying, problems at home, academic struggles, peer pressure, etc., but never really took a serious look at how their current health issues could have an effect on their future.

I want my students to be healthy in mind and body. I want them to learn they can start making healthy choices right now that will benefit them for a lifetime.

Since the start of my triathlon journey, I have wanted to set an example and make a difference in the lives of my students by helping them to be more physically active.

As I was trying to figure out how to do that, I was reminded of the 100 Mile Club our son belongs to at his school. He has been a 100 Mile Club member for two years now and has enjoyed every minute of it. Every Thursday after school his 100 Mile Club runs and walks for one hour, with the goal of getting to 100 miles over the course of the school year. The kids get shirts and rewards that indicate how many miles they run.

According to the organization's website, "Participants utilize and experience life-skills based on The Pyramid of Success, designed by the legendary basketball coach, teacher, and 100 Mile Club mentor, Coach John Wooden. Once a child gets a taste of the deep and powerful intrinsic rewards of true, TRUE personal success, he or she will seek that feeling again and again… at school, at home, and in life.”

I know on a personal level that our son went from being indifferent to excited and motivated to improve his mileage each week.

So, with a little more research, I contacted founder Kara Lubin and began the process of starting a club at our school. After introducing the idea to my principal, she whole heartedly supported me and the result has been incredible! Through the tremendous support of the 100 Mile Club and outpouring donations from teachers at my school, Ramona Communication Arts Academy, we were able to sponsor 60 students to participate.

Well, last Friday one of my goals for my CNN Fit Nation journey came true! Students and teachers ran a combined total of 42 miles in 14 minutes for their health at our school’s 100 Mile Club kickoff event. I couldn’t be prouder of these kids, staying after school to run!

After the event, one of my students, who told me earlier with tears in his eyes that he was being teased by his family about his weight, told me, “Mr. Solis, thanks for doing this for me, I’m feeling better already!”

‘Nuf said. Thanks CNN for this tremendous opportunity!!

Next step, nutrition classes during lunch!


soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. BasketballCoach

    This is awesome. I think kids need to learn from an early age that having a healthy and active lifestyle is fun and rewarding! Every school should have this opportunity for kids of all ages, teachers too!

    March 22, 2012 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. stilllearning2b

    I love this! I try to inspire my students by sharing healthy recipe ideas (I have even gotten several of them to try spinach smoothies!) and doing pushup or wall sit contests between classes or during bus call. My middle schoolers really do look to their teachers to help guide their choices and I want to be able to set a good example. I might try to tackle the 100 club next year!
    http://lessonsfromtheendofamarriage.com

    March 22, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dave Ruby

    Carlos: You ARE paying it forward!! And an exceptional example.

    March 22, 2012 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. aretiree

    What a good program! It is so much better than the one I read about a while back that suggested to cure obesity children should be let out of school earlier so they can go home and exercise. Of course the resultant exercise in most cases would have been finger exercises gained from using remotes.

    March 22, 2012 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Nancy Klinger

    Carlos, this is a wonderful post. All that every child needs is one person in their life, a parent, mentor, or teacher, to believe in them. For so many kids, YOU are that person.

    March 22, 2012 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. The_Mick

    "I want my students to be healthy in mind and body." Excellent! I taught gifted and talented chemistry and physics at the largest high school in Maryland and was also head coach of the cross country team. One day in the Spring, an obese girl waited until all the other students had left my room after class and asked, "If I come to your cross country practices when they start in August, can I walk a lot around the track and where you guys go through the neighborhoods so that by December I'll have lost some weight?"
    I required her to fulfill the same requirements as all athletes: parental permission, pass a physical, be academically eligible, and have proof of insurance. She also had to show up for ALL practices, build herself up to running or walking 3 miles each time or the equivalent in hills or intervals and set a goal to run at least one 3-mile race before the season was over.
    By December she had taken off 20 lbs and her muscle tone was excellent. She went on to do shot put in indoor track. The next year a dozen kids – mostly girls – showed up in August for the same reason and I kept the program rolling until I retired. In every case where the kids stuck it out, they lost at least 5 lbs, but usually 15-20. That's made me strongly believe the obesity problem in America is due more to lack of exercise than eating more (though that doesn't help!).

    March 23, 2012 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Luka S

    What a wonderful idea.....except for one thing. Why give 'rewards' for exercising? Doing something good for your body should be rewarding in itself.

    March 23, 2012 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KarmaGettin

      it's not so much they are being "rewarded" to exercise...it's actually just positive reinforcement. They aren't earning extra credit or getting paid for their efforts...just a pat on the back and knowing that someone out there actually gives a crap about their wellbeing. Something that will carry on with them for the rest of their lives. A "reward" stating how many miles they've ran is hardly what I would consider being rewarded for exercising. If that's the case then all of the people who have 26.2 stickers on their cars should take them off.....those stickers indicate that poerson has run a marathon. And if t-shirts etc are considered an award.....then we "reward" high school and college football players with stickers on their helmets for sacks, good plays etc. It's a SMALL token that they can be proud of.

      March 24, 2012 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
  8. karriePGH

    "After the event, one of my students, who told me earlier with tears in his eyes that he was being teased by his family about his weight, "
    And we wonder why the cycle of all things sad keeps on going. Teasing in this context is not love. It is not confidence-building. It's not being clever or witty. It's abuse, because it probably happens multiple times a day, every day and on and on.

    March 24, 2012 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. KarmaGettin

    Thank you Mr. Solis, for being so incredibly selfless of your time and committment to your students. Reading that a child is being teased by his own family about his weight is heartbreaking. And that child coming to you to share what a difference you are making in his life, in one short run, has brought tears to my eyes...LITERALLY. They're falling from my eyes as I type. Tears of joy that an adult is actually taking the time to make a difference in the life of not just a child, but MANY children🙂 The children whose lives you're touching will grow to be better people just for sharing time with you. You have inspired me to get back to my roots of volunteering...only I volunteer with rescuing animals. Mostly dogs from high kill pounds, strays and puppy-mill dogs. Seeing their faces when they get to run free and play instead of living their life in a cage is heart racingly amazing🙂 I am now going to find a rescue dog to hug....and hopefully find a young person (I'm 36) who likes animals and encourage them to be there for someone else..... 2 legged or 4 legged🙂

    March 24, 2012 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kara Lubin

      Thank you for yur heartfelt response. Mr. Solis is indeed an amazing teacher who is paying it forward in a big way. The 100 Mile Club is just a vehicle to help him do what he had in his heart...we are honored to be a part of his and his students' journey.
      🙂 Kara Lubin, Founder
      The 100 Mile Club
      http://www.100mileclub.com

      March 26, 2012 at 00:37 | Report abuse |
  10. eroteme

    Oh Mr Shackleton! I do agree with you. That is, that you are a Great One, if not THE Great One. It must make you feel very comfortable, you must wonder why others, teachers, are not just like you.

    March 24, 2012 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Linda O'Cleary

    Mr. Solis, Thank you taking your time to start something so good for our kids, I am proud of what you do you are setting such great goals for yourself and for our kids.

    March 25, 2012 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dana

    Way to go Carlos! What an awesome example of what a teacher should be in this country!

    March 26, 2012 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. manufacturingtraining

    Carlos:

    This is great!

    You inspired me this weekend at Ed and Martha's telling me about this project...so much so that I aired up my Bianchi and climbed a few hills. I realized just how out of shape I am, but after just that little bit, the thrill is back and I'm feeling better all ready.

    What you are doing is a great thing. Your family, your students, and your friends are lucky to have you in their lives.

    Let's go for a ride this weekend! Martha and Ed have my number; give me a yell.

    Joe
    http://manufacturingtraining.wordpress.com/

    April 3, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.