Thanks to funding from the Cigna Foundation, Loretta Sander of the Chicago YMCA in Naperville, Illinois designed an after-school program at Hill Middle School using Zamzee to get a group of kids active. She’s working with Brad Sulkowski from Northern Illinois University and together they are doing great things. We recently interviewed her to find out how the program is going.
Zamzee: Thanks for taking some time to talk with us, Loretta! Can you tell us more about why you decided to use Zamzee at Hill Middle School?
Loretta: Absolutely! When I found out I was able to do a kids program with Zamzee, I knew right away that I wanted to work with middle school students. Middle school kids desperately need physical activity – exercise brings those positive endorphins that help middle school kids feel better about themselves and their life outlook. The problem is lots of kids don’t like being involved in big group activities like sports teams (my son included!). But just because some kids don’t participate in sports, that doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the benefits of exercise.
Zamzee: We totally agree. So what are the kids in your program doing to get active?
Loretta: We are doing a five-week program for fifteen 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Hill. We meet every Tuesday and Thursday after school to do cardio, calisthenics, circuit rotations and interval training. We use a room at Hill so the students don’t even have to travel anywhere. All students were given a Zamzee at the start of the program and have been using it all along to track their activity and (of course!) get rewards.
Zamzee: And how are the kids liking Zamzee?
Loretta: They love it! Actually, at the beginning, a lot of the initial draw for kids was that they could earn rewards with Zamzee – they love the gift cards. That made them want to work out and participate in the program. They think it’s pretty cool that they can earn these rewards on their own, without the help of Mom and Dad. It gives them a sense of empowerment, which is a great thing for kids at this age. And the more they started working out, the better their bodies felt.
Zamzee: No big surprise there!
Loretta: Right. Lots of kids were pretty quiet when the class began. But now some kids are getting competitive about earning Zamzee Pointz. This is all on their own – I didn’t have anything to do with it! When we meet at the start of class, kids will be asking each other how many Pointz they’ve earned. Because we don’t meet every day, Zamzee helps motivate them to keep working at being active until the next class so that they can compare their Pointz.
One of my kids has even gotten so into Zamzee that he’s gotten his parents to start working out with him at home! This particular kid actually plays on the school football team, but when it’s not football season he didn’t have a good way to exercise. His parents love that he’s now staying active throughout the whole year!
Zamzee: What’s next for you and Zamzee?
Loretta: I’m trying to raise funds to expand the program to more middle schools. I think this could benefit lots of kids, if we had enough program leaders and enough Zamzees! And I want to increase girls participation at Hill Middle School next – we only had two girls participate this time, and I think it would be great if we could encourage girls to get more involved.
Zamzee: Wow, those are big plans! We’re so glad to hear that Zamzee has worked so well for you. Thanks for sharing your story!
Loretta: Thank you!