In any community, positive economic development depends on having a healthy workforce. By focusing on kids’ health, the ActiveSWV Kids Run Club program helps achieve the organization’s overall mission to improve the health and longevity of the workforce in the region by engaging in future workforce development.
The Kids Run Club program emphasizes values around teamwork and inclusion, while giving kids the skills and confidence they need to be physically active and lead healthy lives beyond the tenure of the program. Kids Run Clubs give kids access to structured physical activity early on, which puts them in a better position to stay healthy and positively contribute to their community’s economy as they grow older. There are a few ways that the program can lead to this outcome.
1) Exercise Leading to Academic Success
Economic growth in the region depends on growing and retaining an educated population, and structured physical activity may help kids succeed academically. A report by the CDC on the association between physical activity and academic performance notes that ”There is substantial evidence that physical activity can help improve academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores (p.6)“, and that “GPA was positively associated with physical activity 12 of the 22 times it was measured (p. 26)“.
Volunteers involved with the Kids Run program have even noticed a difference in the kids they coach. “We can definitely tell a difference between Run Club days and non Run Club days” observes teacher Courtney Walton Wood at Zela Elementary, “on Run Cub days, the kids are just so much more ready to learn”.
Active SWV Kids Run Clubs are an extracurricular opportunity for kids to get active, and the program supplements or takes the place of sports teams or PE classes in schools. Many elementary schools do not have structured athletic programs, and Kids Run Clubs can fill that gap for many communities and provide the kids with an opportunity to boost their academic performance.
2) Impacting Family Members
Kids Run Clubs also reach beyond just the children in the program. Often, friends and family members of the participants are encouraged to become more active as well. Before and after participating in the program, the kids answered survey questions for Active SWV’s 2017 Kid Run Club Report, and 71.8% of respondents said that they were able to get a friend or family member to increase their physical activity. For reference, there were a total of 1,921 kids participating in Run Clubs in 2017.
There were also a total of 188 parent and teacher volunteers helping in clubs across the 21 participating schools, and some of them had personal reasons for wanting to get involved. One parent coach at Zela Elementary, when asked why she wanted to volunteer with the program, responded that she wanted “to become a better example for my children“. Another teacher coach expressed that she got involved so that she could work on being more active herself.
By providing the opportunity for structured exercise and increasing levels physical activity for these kids and adults alike, the Kids Run Club program helps to improve the overall health of the current workforce as well as the future workforce. And having a healthy, active community can in turn contribute to positive economic development in the area.
3) Preventing Negative Behaviors and Encouraging Positive Ones
Time spent in an Active SWV Kids Run Club is time spent in a positive, save environment where kids can engage in and learn healthy behaviors and stay away from negative ones. The same report by the CDC referenced above notes “two studies also examined the association between extracurricular activities and dropout rates and found that participation was linked to decreased high school drop out rates (p 29)“. As an extracurricular activity, Kids Run Clubs could be helping participants maintain the healthy habit of continuing their education.
A teacher at Hinton Area Elementary, Cassie Smith, observed firsthand the effects the Club had on the kids’ overall behavior and attitude towards education. “Several teachers in our school have come up to me and expressed their gratitude to me for leading this club, saying that their “troubled” kids have done a complete 180 and have a positive outlet to plug into now! This is all of the gratification I need to continue this journey with our school.”
Better educated, more focused, and healthier kids likely land in a better position to succeed economically than their counterparts who might lack in these areas. Active SWV Kids Run Clubs strive to provide an environment to make all this possible for the kids who participate in the program.