Holman Elementary School fifth graders were on a field trip when they got the news. The class had been selected as the grand prize winner of the first “Rams Effect” contest, and would receive a visit from a Rams player in addition to one hundred tickets to a Rams home game.
“Everyone on the bus started screaming,” Tarita Rhimes, Holman Elementary fifth grade teacher and Rams Effect contact said. “The bus driver had to pull over and everyone was so excited. And right when we got back to school we started planning out how we were going to execute (the project).”
“Rams Effect” is a part of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Newspapers in Education (NIE) initiative, designed to encourage teachers to use newspapers in the classroom as a supplemental teaching tool. It included a contest portion to engage local students with their various communities by having them create service projects.
Inspired by the Ferguson-Florissant school district initiative and Let’s Move!, an initiative launched by Michelle Obama dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, Rhimes’ students decided their gift to the community would be a fitness and nutrition information project. Thus, the “Get Fit, Get Healthy Literacy Night” was born.
On Thursday evening, months of planning, research, and teamwork came to fruition in the form of health and nutrition presentations. On hand to validate the findings was Rams running back
“We wanted to put together a program where we got kids involved in not only reading newspapers, but got them having conversations about eating healthy and living right,” Jackson said. “There are so many benefits for the children. They can go home and teach their parents what we did tonight.”
For a while, Jackson’s presence at the event was a mystery. Rhimes said they had no idea who was coming to represent the team and even had thoughts of postponing the event due to the forecasted inclement weather.
“Then we got the phone call that Steven was going to be coming,” Rhimes said. “There was no chance we were going to cancel after that.”
Jackson did not disappoint an auditorium full of students, parents and faculty. He spoke of the importance of eating right and making healthy choices. From there, he went around to the various stations, listening to the different presentations, taking part in the interactive portions and answering questions directed his way – what he eats, what are his healthy eating habits and when he started working out.
“They asked some of the toughest questions I faced all season long,” Jackson said.
Hard-hitting questions aside, those participating in the “Get Fit, Get Healthy Literacy Night” were just appreciative to have Jackson’s support on the program.
“He embraces health and he embraces getting fit,” Rhimes said. “That’s what he’s about and why he wanted to be here tonight.”
The effects of the program have extended beyond the classroom. Rhimes said she has noticed students being more cognizant of what they eat in the lunchroom. As the last lunch of the day, the fifth graders have the options of buying leftover snacks such as burgers, nuggets and fries. Since work began on the “Get Fit, Get Healthy Literacy Night,” however, Rhimes has seen a change.
“You see the kids going to the salad bar more now instead of buying the extra carbs at lunch,” she said. “And a lot of them used to bring in chips from home as a snack during the day. But they’ve cut down on those as well or are going for the baked options instead.”
Jackson recognizes the importance of healthy eating. That is why he made sure to support the students’ efforts and encourage them to continue on the right path.
“You’re talking to young people who are at a tender age where they could go left or right,” Jackson said. “And you just want to keep them on the straight path and let them know that they’re going to make mistakes in life, but it’s how you overcome them that matters.”