Creek View students getting fit

Students at Creek View Elementary School are staying after school to get fit, and they’re not even playing on a sports team.

That’s because Jo Vermeer, a first-grade teacher and former University of Montevallo soccer player, has developed a program aimed at teaching children how to live healthier lifestyles.

Vermeer, a native of Brighton, England, said she was shocked to see the obesity rate when she arrived in the United States.

And even though the former soccer player competed at the collegiate level, she wanted to show kids exercise doesn’t have to be limited to competitive sports.

Thus, the Fit Club was born.

“I’m trying to introduce them to a healthier lifestyle,” Vermeer said. “I just want to show the children there are other options of exercising and eating than playing on a sports team or going home to sit on the couch and watch TV or play video games.”

While the after-school club does involve traditional activities like jumping rope and shooting basketball, it also involves non-traditional activities such as plyometrics, cup-stacking and even cricket.

The club is also aimed at teaching the children how to eat healthier.

At the conclusion of each club event, which ran each Tuesday in April, the students discuss the food pyramid, while also enjoying a healthy snack.

“Last week, we had celery, carrots and cucumbers, and half of (the students) couldn’t even name (the vegetables),” Vermeer said. “I’m trying to introduce them to healthier foods.”

This was the second time Vermeer has run the club, with the other session taking place in the fall of 2008.

Vermeer said the initial response to the club in the fall was overwhelming as 170 kids applied to be members.

She had an even better response this time around, even having to draw kids’ names out of fairness.

Because of limited funds and resources, she was only able to admit 40 into the club.

Vermeer is assisted by members of the UM womens’ soccer team, and she feeds the kids out of her own pocket.

She hopes in the upcoming year she can allow more kids to join and offer the club more frequently.

But she also admitted that the school will need help in funding to offer the program more often and to more kids.

“I would like to make it bigger,” Vermeer. “I hate to tell the kids ‘No.’”

But even in offering the program twice a year, Vermeer said it has been more than worth it.

“Seeing the kids outside the club and them telling me what they remembered is special,” Vermeer said.