Source: Sherman Publications

Brandon teen fuels up to play national ambassador

by Susan Bromley

July 20, 2011

Brandon Twp.- Living a healthy lifestyle and encouraging others to do the same comes with unexpected perks sometimes, as township resident Tyler Kwapis has learned.

As one of the nine teens selected to be national ambassadors for the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, the 13-year-old flew in a plane for the first time, toured Washington, D.C. from July 14-16 and met St. Louis Rams Quarterback Sam Bradford and last television season’s “Top Chef” winner Carla Hall.

“It was one of the coolest two days of my life,” said Kwapis. “We are the leaders of the program and can change it to how it should be.”

Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program founded by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League, based on a mutual commitment to the health of the next generation, according to the website The U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as many business and industry leaders are involved in the program, which promotes healthier eating and more physical activity opportunities. According to the site, research shows well-nourished and physically active children are better students, and have better self-esteem and cognitive function.

Kwapis has been a member of the Fuel Up and Play 60 Club at Oxford Middle School for the past three years.

“So many students don’t know what they are eating for lunch at school,” he said. “They see what it is, but don’t know the content of what they are eating. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to join. The unhealthy choices you make at lunch, you have no idea how much that can impact you throughout the day. I’ve seen kids struggle to do five minutes of jogging because of how unhealthy they eat at lunch. I wanted to be healthier, too.”

Kwapis runs cross country in the fall, track in the spring, and skis in the winter. As a member of the club, he helped implement “grab and go” breakfast in April, in which the club used a $5,000 grant to pack 1,100 breakfasts for all the students at OMS. The breakfast included a low-fat string cheese, choice of white or chocolate milk, apple and low-fat granola bar.

“A lot of kids were like, ‘We should do this more than once a year, it’s so cool having breakfast in class,’” he recalled. “All the students had a healthy breakfast and were very productive.”

The club also came up with ‘TEXT (Talking Exercising to Tunes) Time,’ a challenge in which students from each grade are given an opportunity to play music and walk laps around the gymnasium while talking to friends during study hall hours. Students liked it so much that Kwapis and other club members added basketball and volleyball later in the year.

Kwapis believes this challenge may have been one of the reasons he was selected as a national ambassador for Fuel Up to Play 60 after applying for the position in April. He was notified six weeks later that he was chosen.

As a national ambassador, he will be able to influence the program as he is asked for his ideas. Some of Kwapis’ suggestions include a National Fuel Up to Play 60 day in which kids go outside and turn off the television for the day, or a ‘Respect Your Pet Day’ in which kids are encouraged to interact with their animal friends by going for a walk or playing fetch, for example.

Kwapis will be national ambassador for the next year, and one of his personal responsibilities will be implementing the program at Oxford High School, where he will be a freshman this year.

“When you join the program, you’re not just helping in the short run, you’re helping yourself and the people around you in the long run to stay healthy and be active,” he said.

“I learned that us, the youth of America, can change so much. You don’t have to be an adult to change the world, anyone can do it. I met a lot of cool people (in DC) and the kids were all nice to each other. You could see them sitting in the White House. They were leaders.”