Achievements In Youth Leadership

Achievements in Youth Leadership

Success of India Krawczyk, AmeriCorps VISTA Member

Mission of Active SWV Youth Programming

The Active Southern West Virginia Kids Run Club is a powerful program within the Active SWV non-profit organization. Active SWV develops activities and programming to create a culture of exercise and physical activity in southern West Virginia. Our main purpose it to transform southern West Virginia into a more physically active community. One way we are succeeding in our mission is by providing opportunities for kids to get active through running. With success of the Kids Run Club program, we expect participants to develop an enjoyment and understanding of exercise that promotes lifelong healthy habits. Running is an extremely accessible sport that helps kids build a healthy heart, healthy lungs, and strong muscles at an early age. Running can even promote mental health and increase attention in school.

A happy and healthy community will attract visitors, new businesses, and jobs to the area. Active SWV seeks to improve the health of all southern West Virginians by providing opportunities for them to lead active lives. This action will help diversify our region’s economic landscape by attracting businesses looking for a community where living a healthy, active lifestyle is a priority. A partnership with the AmeriCorps VISTA program has offered Active SWV additional tools to overcome barriers to fostering youth health by providing leadership and building capacity.

About AmeriCorps 

AmeriCorps VISTAS have served with Active Southern West Virginia since 2015. The federal organization has over 75,000 Americans in the program, and states “AmeriCorps VISTA members serve as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to meet our nation’s most pressing challenges and advance local solutions.”

India, the Active SWV Development and Outreach Coordinator

India Krawczyk began her service with Active SWV as an AmeriCorps VISTA in 2018. India’s previous employment had her commuting almost 3 hours daily, along with remaining mostly stationary at work. Change was in order. India had a desire to increase her own physical activity, move to West Virginia to be near family, and pursue a job that combined health, physical activity, and food/nutrition in the state. When India came across the opening she thought, It was interesting that Active SWV’s overall goal was to improve people’s health so that the area would be more economically attractive for companies to come and recruit workers. I thought it would be great to be part of an organization with such a strong, urgent reason for working to get people in the community active and healthy.”

One of India’s largest responsibilities with Active SWV has been building capacity with volunteer coaches to implement the Active SWV Kids Run Club program in area elementary schools and community groups. She facilitates the Kids Run Clubs by training volunteer parent and teacher ‘coaches’ to lead the programs within their own schools. The time and training materials that help to facilitate this process are made possible by funding from Active SWV and Active SWV’s grant partners such as Saucony Foundation, the Massey Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Active SWV Bridge Day 5K Run, and the New River Health Association.

Run Clubs are hosted at elementary and middle schools across Fayette, Raleigh, Nicholas, and Summers Counties. Any interested child may participate – there is no skill requirement, equipment purchase, or membership fee for the school or participant. The Active SWV Kids Run Club Program was designed specifically to be accessible for those who may not have the resources to participate in another organized sport. India says, “Active SWV is all about making physical activity more accessible and easier for people to fit into their day. Providing a free opportunity for physical activity is one of the biggest things the program offers to the community. Some kids might not be able to get active at home because of a lack of space or unsafe street/yard/etc., and the program provides a safe, supervised environment for kids to run around. The confidence and education that kids get from being active in a Run Club is invaluable.”

The Kids Run Club program has had many achievements and helped youth to overcome barriers to physical activity. Active SWV partners with the WVU School of Public Health to conduct pre and post program surveys during the Run Club seasons in order to measure some successes of the program. Here are some 2018 highlights from that survey data:

  • In Spring 2018, 44 kids or 20% of participants went from not meeting the daily recommended physical activity guidelines (60 minutes per day) to meeting them. *Additionally, in 2018 there was a statistically significant increase in the days per week that participants achieved the recommended 60 minutes daily of physical activity (PA). Spring 2018 increased to 5 days and fall 2018 increased to 5.3 days
  • Screen time decreased for 25% of participant respondents in fall 2018. Screen time in general did increase in fall 2017 and remained high in 2018, and meeting PA guidelines was low during these times as well. This could indicate that Kids Run Club programs are still needed to help reduce screen time and increase PA for youth.
  • In 2018 ~25% of participants were able to get a family member to increase their physical activity, totaling about 22 family members who became more active and invested in their health. The reach from here is unknown but is estimated to be valuable to the community.
  • In 2018 there was an increase in confidence in physical activity by participants surveyed, and an increased knowledge of physical activity skills (warm up, cool down, stretch) by some participants. *Spring of 2018 in particular had a statistically significant increase in the confidence levels of kids to be able to be physically active for 60 minutes daily.*indicates statistical significance

Overcoming barriers in communities

  • Many children are unable to get active at home because of a lack of space or unsafe street/yard/etc. The program provides a safe, supervised environment for kids to run around.

Building Confidence

  • India comments, “The confidence and education that kids get from being active in a Kids Run Club is invaluable. The slightly older kids (5th and up) in particular are starting to be at an age where they might feel less confident and secure in themselves. Gaining confidence in running can be a huge help in dealing with a lack of self-assurance in other areas, and it can be a tool they can use through their whole lives.”

Recruiting and training volunteers/coaches

  • The Kids Run Club program has over 90 volunteer coaches participating across four counties. These coaches are comprised of faculty, parents, high school students, and college students.

Training for Childhood Trauma

  • Handle With Care workshop

Providing clubs with materials

  • Hurdles, cones, t-shirts, certificates, etc.
  • Extensive program manual
  • On-site visits to assist with practices
  • On-site assistance for the final Fun Run events

How You Can Help Continue This Success

Active Southern West Virginia is continually striving to grow the reach of the Kids Run Clubs by recruiting new schools in the region, training volunteers and pursuing funding. India reflects, “Before I started with Active SWV, it was clear to me that the people in the organization really and truly cared about the outcomes and consequences of their efforts in WV.  I’d never worked towards such a meaningful goal before and was excited to be a part of something that might actually make a difference in a place that meant so much to me as well.” Having a team of dedicated staff and volunteers that share this vision has been crucial in the success of Active SWV programs.

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