Oz started the HealthCorps program in 2002 to help empower kids to make healthier lifestyle choices.
The two-year program involves in-school placement of a peer-mentor coordinator who focuses part of the curriculum on nutrition, fitness, and mental resilience. ASTEC is the first in Oklahoma to adopt the initiative, thanks to a donation by Continental Resources.
“Right now, there are HealthCorps schools and programs on the East Coast and West Coast but none in the central part of the United States, so ASTEC has become the first,” said ASTEC Founder and CEO Freda Deskin.
“Of course, Continental Oil CEO Harold Hamm — who has a great interest in health, having battled diabetes and having made investments in our community and the diabetes center — is the one that agreed to, enthusiastically I understand, fund the program.”
Her sentiments are echoed by Kristin Miskovsky, Continental vice president of public relations.
“When you look at obesity rates … we really have a chance with this coming generation to help change their mindsets,” said Miskovsky.
Even before HealthCorps, Deskin noted, ASTEC encouraged healthy choices by students. The school restricted candy and sugary sodas before a district-wide ban eventually was put in place by Oklahoma City Public Schools. Instead of the “warming kitchen” found in many school cafeterias, ASTEC uses a “chef’s kitchen” to prepare healthy meals.
ASTEC HealthCorps Coordinator Ryan Fightmaster helps educate students on health-conscious decision making.
“We’re not telling kids to stop eating chips. We’re not telling kids to stop drinking Coke,” he said. “We’re giving them the power to actually go out, be able to make those choices independently, because they know now, they’re able to make the choices themselves.”
After-school programs also are part of HealthCorps, with students able to take part in fun exercise programs like Zumba and yoga. They’ll also learn healthy cooking practices through team competitions where they will be judged on meal quality and presentation, as well as the cleanliness of their kitchens. The cooking program will culminate in a year-end competition.
“We’re looking to have that at a local venue to really promote the event and show off our kids. We’ll have outside judges come in and judge the competition. It should be really fun because most kids are never really taught how to cook,” said Fightmaster.
The HealthCorps program extends to the faculty through staff wellness competitions.
Oz will visit the school in late October to see firsthand the initial results of the HealthCorps program on ASTEC students and staff.