Walking program inspires students, gets them moving

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Lorna Marquardt, Special to the Leader

“Of all exercises, walking is the best.” — Thomas Jefferson

Park and Recreation Director Judy Judd stopped at City Hall the other day. She commented, “Today I attended a meeting at the Shawano Community Middle School where I just saw an inspiring sight. I went past the gym and I saw dozens of students walking; one with crutches. They seemed to be quite focused and appeared to be enjoying themselves.”

Judd inquired and learned what she observed were Mileage Club participants. Judd told me if I wanted to learn about the program, I should contact Associate Principal Tami Bagstad, who is in charge of the program. I enjoy hearing about projects and programs our youth are involved in, so I did just that. Today, I would like to share with you the details of this amazing program, which Leader reporter Lee Pulaski also wrote about in a Page 1 feature story last month.

The idea was sparked at a Safe Routes to School meeting. Matty Mathison questioned if there were any interested staff members who might run the program. Due to scheduling conflicts, it was difficult to find anyone. So, Bagstad decided to give it a try herself. She started the program within the first week of school with five students. She took the handful of students out to the track to see how many laps they could walk or run in 15 minutes.

Since that day, more and more students in grades six, seven and eight have joined the group, and that number continues to grow. There are now 320 students, out of a possible 530, who use their before-school and lunch recess times to engage in walking activities (walking, jogging, running, playing tag). With the colder weather, the students have moved from the track to the gym.

Bagstad commented, “Students record their steps on a spreadsheet each day. For every 10 times they walk, they receive a foot charm and add their card to the prize drawing bin to be eligible for monthly drawings for T-shirts, water bottles, zipper pulls and Subway cards, which are donated by Safe Routes.”

She added “They also supplied the students with pedometers and duct tape pouches.”

According to Bagstad, the goal is to walk across the United States. If they reach all states, they will go on a world tour!

A recent update showed the group has collectively walked close to 5 million steps and are on the West Coast (Richland, Wash.). The students started from Shawano and collaboratively walked for over 50 miles during the first week, putting them west of Wausau (Rosholt, to be exact). The students are marking their progress on a map displayed by the north gym.

The program inspires teamwork. Custodian Steve Schuettpelz turned an old lunch table into a double-sided plywood board display on wheels for the students to keep all of their things. Custodian Tim Cornell makes sure everything (a portable table for recording, spreadsheets and pens for recording, display board) is where it needs to be, when it needs to be there .

Bagstad remarked, “The students are very excited to have something different in their day. They seem to enjoy the social time with one another. Students are challenging each other to see who gets the most steps on a weekly basis. It’s good friendly competition.”

We have become increasingly aware of the benefits of walking and exercising. If Americans continue on current lifestyle trends, over 50 percent will have diabetes by the year 2030. Changing to a healthy lifestyle during adolescence will help decrease those projections significantly.

Bagstad said, “This program has grown well beyond anyone’s expectations. Students are gravitating toward it. Discipline referrals during lunch time have shown a decrease.”

Bagstad added, “I enjoy talking to the students and telling them how much this physical activity helps with their studies and their overall health. I also remind them at the end of the school year, the grade with the most mileage will win a party from Subway!”

Congratulations to all the participants of the Mileage Club. You most certainly are role models for others in our community.

The answer to the last trivia question — What business was owned/operated by partners Jim Reetz and Jim Otto in 1982? — is King James Ltd.

This week’s question is: What was the name of the children’s boutique located at 137 S. Main St. in 2001?

Lorna Marquardt is mayor of Shawano.
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