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Kwapis makes healthy living his mission



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OHS freshman Tyler Kwapis stands outside the White House at night. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
July 27, 2011 - Most teens entering high school in the fall are worried about typical things like what to wear on the first day, whether or not they'll fit in and finding all of their classes, not to mention their locker.

Oxford High School freshman Tyler Kwapis' biggest concern is how he's going to motivate his fellow students to start eating healthy and engage in more physical activity.

"You can never stop working to change your school and make it a healthier place," he said. "There's always that one little extra thing you can do."

It's that kind of dedication that earned Kwapis a spot as a national student ambassador for Fuel Up to Play 60.

"I get to help shape the program both nationally and at my school," he said.

Sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, Fuel Up to Play 60 is designed to encourage youth to consume nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat/fat-free dairy products along with engaging in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on a daily basis.

"Living a healthy life-style can change so much in a person's life," Kwapis said.

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Milk is Kwapis’ drink of choice. (click for larger version)
Unlike other programs where adults tell kids what to, Fuel Up to Play 60 is driven by student ideas and participation in the decision-making process.

Kwapis got involved in the program while attending Oxford Middle School.

There he participated in programs such as TEXT and "Grab and Go Breakfast."

TEXT, which stands for Talking and Exercising to Tunes, involved students walking around the gym for 30 minutes each week while listening to music and socializing with friends. It later expanded to include basketball, volleyball and jump-roping.

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"It was very successful," Kwapis said. "We had 100 percent student participation."

The "Grab and Go Breakfast" event involved packing breakfasts for all 1,200 middle school students, then delivering the meals to them during their first-hour classes.

Kwapis is so enthusiastic about Fuel Up to Play 60 and its goals that back in April, he applied to become a national student ambassador. He was selected in late May.

"I was amazed I got it," he said. "I was so excited just to finally have that say in the program and be recognized as a leader."

Although his term is the 2011-12 school year, Kwapis said, "I'll probably think of myself as an ambassador for life."

As a national ambassador, Kwapis attended a Fuel Up to Play 60 summit July 14-16 in Washington D.C. where he met like-minded students, underwent leadership training and toured the nation's capital. He was accompanied by OMS Assistant Principal Dacia Beazley. "The trip was amazing," Kwapis said. "I absolutely loved it."

Kwapis especially enjoyed meeting 30 of his fellow national ambassadors and state representatives. "They were all like me; they're all leaders," he said.

As part of the summit, Kwapis received training on how to interact with the media and prepare for interviews.

"They had cameras in our face the entire time to get us used to them," he said.

He also got to toss around ideas in a brainstorming session with his fellow student leaders. "We had about 124 ideas," Kwapis said. "We hope that a lot of them will be used during the next school year."

Kwapis came up with the idea for a "respect your pet day."

"Instead of playing video games when you get home from school, you go and walk your dog for 30 minutes to an hour. Or you go outside and play fetch with your dog," he explained.

Kwapis must have impressed the Fuel Up to Play 60 organization because she won the "Outstanding Leader" award.

He received a football autographed and presented by quarterback Sam Bradford, of the St. Louis Rams, who made a guest appearance at the summit.

But the trip wasn't all work.

Kwapis got to visit the Capitol Building, White House, Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, and memorials dedicated to those who fought and died in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

"There were so many things to do in such a small period of time," he said.

The national summit definitely got Kwapis fired up to implement Fuel Up to Play 60 programs at OHS. "One of the biggest challenges I'll face is the high school does not have the program yet, only the middle school," he explained. "I'll have to be responsible for starting the program."

But he won't be alone. Four other students who served on the OMS Fuel Up to Play 60 committee are also moving on to the high school this fall. "It's going to be up to us to get things going," he said. "I hope to have students from the upper grades join in.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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