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Earning PALAs: the I Can Do It, You Can Do It program in Miami-Dade County

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to travel to Miami-Dade County to observe first-hand their commitment to physical activity for all. Miami-Dade and I Can Do It, You Can Do It awarded 1,253 Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) certificates to students with disabilities. I was lucky enough to be there to present the PALA certificates to the students.

 

The I Can Do It, You Can Do It program in Miami-Dade County presents a promising model for teaching healthy practices to children with disabilities. Over the course of the program the students are provided with a mentor who gives guidance on physical activity and making healthy eating choices. This program is open to all Miami‐Dade County Public School (M-DCPS) students in grades 2 and up with physical and cognitive disabilities.

All Americans can earn their PALA, by simply completing 60 minutes of physical activity a day if you’re a kid and 30 minutes a day if you’re an adult, five days a week for six weeks. Sign up today at www.presidentschallenge.org!

Each student I met had a unique physical activity and healthy choices journey. Two very special students from G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School received their Presidential Champions Bronze Medals thanks to their physical education teacher diligently logging their activity minutes on the Presidents Challenge web site. My new friends David Quintero and Justin Velasquez shared with me the joy they found in physical activities such as tennis, basketball, sailing and kayaking, swimming, and flexibility training. All of these activities are adapted for the full inclusion of all individuals!

In addition to promoting PALA and physical activity for all, M-DCPS has been innovative in how they have integrated physical education with other classroom subjects such as math. They also teach non communicative autistic students of all abilities to make healthy choices on their own through the iTouch Nutrition iPhone application, which allows students to select healthy options independently!

You may think that such a successful Physical Education program must have a large budget to work with, but in reality, the physical education budget for M-DCPS is zero! In order to achieve their mission— to develop a world class physical education program designed to increase the fitness and physical activity levels of students while reducing the preventable health disparities among our multi-cultural youth population—the school system ambitiously pursued grants and private industry contributions.

The great success of Miami-Dade County can be attributed in part to the leadership of Dr. Jayne Greenberg, the District Administrator for Physical Education and Health Literacy, at Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Since 1995, she has been instrumental in ensuring access to physical activity for all students in Miami-Dade County.  Dr. Greenberg shared with me that “Miami-Dade County Public Schools is committed to ensuring that every student has an opportunity to become healthy and physically fit through quality physical education programs, community partnerships, and parental involvement.”

While there, I was honored to accept on behalf of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, a Key to the County. This is an indication of the commitment from the county as a whole to promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles for all residents.