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  June 30, 2008 Release.
  For Immediate Release.
  Contact: Bonnie Arkus 609-771-9600

picture of Trenton Central High School student in the WHF Teen Esteem program having her waist measured by her PE Teach Ms. Kelley


sophomore girls reveal the program helped them make better health choices; establish new friendships; stay in school to graduate

TRENTON, NJ - One hundred and twenty four sophomore girls at Trenton Central High School graduated the Teen Esteem® Health and Fitness program earlier this month with a better idea of how to achieve their fitness goals and make heart-healthy choices with foods. An additional twenty eight junior students who served as program Peer Leaders, received recognition certificates, a yoga stability ball as a "thank you" gift and an invitation to take part in a Personal Fitness Trainer certification course during the summer months, with a scholarship being offered by the Women's Heart Foundation through its supporters. The ends the 4th year of a successful school-based program intervention to fight obesity and poor health habits that could later lead to early heart disease and diabetes.

This is a great collaboration," said Bonnie Arkus, WHF executive director. "The girls enjoy a customized work-out routine and hands-on nutritional support with preparation of heart-healthy foods right in the Teen Esteem kitchen. WHF engages expert presenters who come to the school from Rutgers University-Camden graduate program as part of the university's internship program. The graduate students can really relate to the girls as mentors to discuss some of the complex issues affecting teen girl health," she said.

"If it weren't for the Teen Esteem program I don't know where I would be right now ", one student shared" I needed someone to talk to. I was on the brink and Teen Esteem helped me understand myself. My physical education teacher, Mrs. Kelley, is there for me. This program should for every girl and at every school." Another student revealed that she had made friends with several girls she otherwise would never have paid attention to. And another reported the program helped her gain new confidence and a broader understanding of health.

The program is funded through a $15,000 grant from the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, a $10,000 grant from the Princeton Area Community Foundation and a $1,000 grant from the William Bryce Thompson Foundation which covers the cost of a personal fitness trainer for the year, a program manager, food expenses, exercise equipment repair or replacement, maintenance and other related costs. Stakeholders include:

  • Rutgers University-Camden (Nanette Sulik schedules graduate students to present on designated topics) (Kathleen Ashton, emeritus professor and Teen Esteem program advisor; former PI of the Teen Esteem research study to analyze the outcome data)

  • Rutgers Extension Services (Susan Fountain to employ the nutrition aides with incorporating the nutrition message and coordinate the purchase of food and preparation of recipes)

  • UMDNJ School of Health Professionals Dietetic Internship Program (Denise Langevin, Director and Geri McKay, Coordinator to institute the Shopping for a Healthy Heart field trip day with 15 dietetic interns)

  • Acme of Lawrenceville (the setting for Shopping for a Healthy Heart® field trip program)

  • Capital Health System (Jack Stolte, Exercise Physiologist and Kathleen Williamson, RN, Coordinator of C-P Rehabilitation)

  • Trenton Central High School staff:

    • Rodney Lofton, Superintendent

    • James Earle, Principal; Josephine Estrada, Vice Principal; Matt Cordonnier, Vice Principal

    • Melda Grant, coordinator of the school's Tornado Resource Center - youth-based school services

    • Constance Kelley, PE Teacher

    • Harold Beatty, Director of PE and Health

    • Margaret Dooley, RN, Director of Nurses, Trenton Board of Education

"This program has shown positive trending since its beginning," said Ms. Arkus, referring to the study results recently released from year 3 of the study which demonstrate the Teen Esteem students experienced a lowering of their waist measurements by an average of two inches, when compared to the control group consisting of sophomore girls attending "regular" gym class. The Teen Esteem students also experienced less of an incline in their BMI scores during the school year. What's more, in a school that reports as high as a 60% school drop out rate, for three consecutive years, the Teen Esteem-enrolled students have remained in school to graduate. A recent study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation reported the national school drop-out rate is 1.2 million students per year, that's 7,000 students per day who are leaving school.

The Teen Esteem program and research project represents a grassroots effort, and the first time ever that an inner city school has linked to a heart organization to design, implement and track a customized healthy lifestyles program for reducing risk factors of obesity and early heart disease, related to poor health choices. Over 500 students have completed the program so far and 188 new students have signed up for the fall of 2008. This proactive approach to teen girl health was initiated by two health and PE teachers at the Trenton Central High School who reached out to the Women's Heart Foundation in November 2002. The WHF continues to work with the school to arrange internships, employ personal fitness trainers, collect physical measurements and track student progress. WHF also networks with the school nurses who play a vital role in follow-up. WHF also purchases food and exercise equipment, arranges a Shopping for a Healthy Heart field trip and assists with the overall management and support of the program. This year, of the 143 student participants, 20 were referred to their family practitioners for having a BMI score of 35 or over (considered severely obese) and 19 were referred for having a high blood pressure reading of 140/90 or greater.

"We have learned so much by working with the Trenton Central High School and the Trenton Board of Education. Now, we want to take this knowledge and share it with other schools so that more children may benefit. We know that fancy websites don't influence children's behavior, but this program does," said Ms. Arkus. "We can't wait.... the children of America need us."

The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey promotes health, well-being, and quality of life in New Jersey's communities. Priority areas include health, the arts, and education.

The Princeton Area Community Foundation builds community by promoting and encouraging philanthropy across greater Mercer County and central New Jersey. We do this by managing charitable funds created by members of the community, providing competitive discretionary grants to nonprofits, and by making advised grants to nonprofits after consultation with individuals or groups of donors.

The Women's Heart Foundation (WHF) is the only Non Governmental Organization that designs and implements demonstration projects for the prevention of heart disease women. Founded June 11, 1992 as a 501 c3 charitable organization, WHF is dedicated to improving women's survival and quality of life and started The Gender Care Initiative to promote excellence of care for women. For more information, contact us.

Related links and initiatives to fight obesity in school children:

  • www.ProjectAppleseed.org - an internet-based organization that encourages parents to be involved in schools
  • Cardiac kids - A Tennessee project to screen school children. CARDIAC is used as an acronym for "Coronary Artery Risk Detection in Appalachian Communities"
  • Louie's Kids - fighting obesity one child at a time by connecting kids to local resources to loose weight
  • Shopping for a Healthy Heart - WHF institutes this as a school field trip to the grocery store, and partners with the UMDNJ Dietetic Internship Program
  • Wellspring Adventure Camp - Tuition cost is high so this weight loss plan is for the affluent

Click on the link below if you would like to make a contribution to help WHF expand this valuable program to other schools. Thank you.




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