Fuel up

Kaitlyn Brooks/The Register

Madison Southern High School students Landon Knuckles, left, Kaylee Davis, middle, and Zach Hess, right, returned to Farristown Middle School to talk to students about Fuel Up to Play 60.

It's not every day one gets to meet an NFL player or travel to the city where the Super Bowl is being held.

But for students at Farristown Middle School, it is a very real possibility if they choose to be a leader in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) is a leading national in-school health and wellness program launched by the National Football League (NFL) and National Dairy Council (NDC).

The primary focus of the program, which was founded by America's dairy farmers, in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is to help schools meet their wellness goals and encourage youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Michelle Begley, former cafeteria manager and program coordinator at Farristown, said students have to do healthy activity challenges, like going out for a walk, picking flowers or playing a game and log their activities online. Begley said more than 6,000 challenges were completed by Farristown students last year.

Begley said she's been pushing the FUTP 60 program for about five years, and has seen an increase in students participating as the years have gone by.

"We are big on farm to school, eating fresh, so we want the kids to be aware about the nutrition and having healthy options," Begley said. "Plus it's a leading opportunity for the kids. Several of them have gone to state."

Students can become leaders by volunteering to participate in the program.

Jennifer Hess, who is in the process of taking over the program from Begley, said it starts with a few students who step up to volunteer, and them grabbing their friends to make them do it with them.

According to Begley, the purpose of a student leader is to promote, encourage and lead by example by eating healthy and playing hard, but also by grabbing a few friends to get involved, too.

After completing a certain amount of challenges and accumulating somewhere in the ballpark of 45,000 points, they can apply to become ambassadors. Ambassadors work with educators, administration, cafeteria staff and other student leaders to make healthy changes happen in their schools.

Those ambassadors then have the opportunity to be selected for a chance to attend the Student Ambassador Summit.

For the past two years, Farristown has been selected to be Kentucky's ambassadors.

"While they are there they are taught leadership qualities and how to come back to their schools to lead different challenges," Hess said. "They meet NFL players while they are there, too, so it's not just work, there are benefits to it."

The first year took Begley and one student on a trip to Minnesota, and last year, Hess took three students, Landon Knuckles, Zach Hess and Kaylee Davis, to Atlanta, Georgia.

Normally, the FUTP 60 only pays for the selected student and their advisor, but last year, they paid for all three students and Hess to attend.

Despite having left middle school, the three continue to participate in the FUTP 60 program. The now Madison Southern High School students came back to Farristown to talk to the middle schoolers about how FUTP 60 has made them into the leaders they are today.

"Knowing that you're actively helping other people and yourself is just a good feeling," Knuckles said.

They also help lead fundraisers and challenges that promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle, such as the Flyer Color Fun 5k that is being held on Saturday, April 13, to raise money for MSHS's Project Graduation.

This is the second year the FUTP 60 kids have helped organize and host the color run. Begley said students will be at water stations and will be encouraging runners throughout the 5k.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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