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Early Childhood Club Prioritizes Wellness

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An after school club that focuses on building healthy students in pre-k and kindergarten was started at Rosa Parks Elementary in City Heights.

By Brian Myers

An after school club that focuses on building healthy students in pre-k and kindergarten was started by volunteers of the Parent Center at Rosa Parks Elementary in City Heights.

Marcela Mercado is a mother and care provider who helped initiate the PreK-Kinder Wellness Club.

She would often take both her children and the children she cares for to the park and library after school, but says there’s a lack of programs available for very young children.

Mercado got involved when she heard about the club because she wanted to advise other parents to think about the whole wellness of the children.

On Thursdays and Fridays the kids get physically active by running or walking laps around the playground and then the sound system is rolled out to provide the music for a Zumba dance course.

Mondays and Tuesdays are less rowdy focusing instead on arts, crafts, and reading. And Wednesdays provide a break from club meetings, but parents are encouraged to spend time with their children.

Mercado says to influence children’s healthy habits, starting in first grade may be too late.

“The earlier you give them the good habits, they’re going to learn and … grow with those good habits,” she said.

The club has become popular, now with over 50 children participating.

Ana Gonzalez manages the daily after school program that receives support from the Hoover Cluster Wellness Council, a collaborative of local public health professionals and parents of children in schools on the path to Hoover High School to improve well being of the youth and ultimately increase graduation rates.

“We want to teach them from a very young age to respect each other and make good decisions and for them to be able to determine the difference between good and bad,” Gonzalez said.

She wants the program to continue to grow at Rosa Parks Elementary and expand to other schools, but sees limited resources as an obstacle.

The club is a volunteer effort comprised of parents from Rosa Parks Elementary and needs additional support to thrive.

“It’s important for parents to be involved because you grow with them and your children feel proud and happy to see their parents participating,” Gonzales said.

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