MURFREESBORO, Tenn. —Underserved children in a five-county area will get the “spark” they need to ignite healthier lifestyles thanks to MTSU’s Center for Health and Human Services.
With $100,000 in funding from the Tennessee Department of Health, the MTSU center will develop, oversee and provide technical assistance for an initiative to integrate healthy eating, active living and a tobacco-free lifestyle into an after-school literacy program for minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged youth called SPARK 2 Read.
Dr. Don Morgan, an MTSU professor of health and human performance, said the program “builds on previous research showing that physical activity can strengthen learning and brain-body connections.”
The MTSU Center for Physical Activity and Health in Youth, which Morgan directs, has been working with the Center for Health and Human Services on a previously issued grant to implement the overall SPARK program at nine rural elementary schools in Meigs, Hickman, Benton, Sullivan and Rutherford counties. Project outcomes are expected in August.
Nationally, SPARK has been recognized as an exemplary program by the U.S. Department of Education and identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a national model for combatting childhood obesity. Now it will be combined through MTSU into a literacy initiative for children aged 5 to 14 in up to 12 schools. They are:
- Hickman County: East Hickman Elementary and Centerville Elementary;
- Meigs County: North Meigs Elementary and South Meigs Elementary;
- Benton County: Briarwood Elementary, Holladay Elementary, Big Sandy Elementary;
- Sullivan County: Lincoln Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary;
- Rutherford County: Three Murfreesboro City schools that have yet to be identified.
Murfreesboro’s “Read to Succeed” program is another partner in SPARK 2 Read. Executive Director Jolene Radnoti said her staffers can’t wait to be a part of it.
“When physical activity and learning are paired, new brain cells develop and cognitive functions are enhanced,” Radnoti said. “SPARK 2 Read will help children soar to new heights.”
The Center for Health and Human Services seeks to improve the well-being of Tennesseans. In partnership with the Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services, CHHS initiates and strengthens academic programs in health and human services to support workforce development and promote healthy communities.
For more information, contact Cynthia Chafin, CHHS assistant director, at 615-898-5493 or email@example.com.