PROJECT FITBeechwood Elementary playground gets upgrade

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Despite what it might look like, the new contraptions at Beechwood Elementary are not your typical playground equipment.

Unveiled this month, the Project Fit America equipment and curriculum give physical education a unique, fun twist that combines play and exercise.

The new gear comes thanks to a $25,600 grant from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi.

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Speakers at a recent dedication ceremony emphasized the importance of physical fitness not just to health, but to performance in the classroom and overall well-being.

Drawing the loudest applause was Antonio Wright, founder of the Metro Area Community Empowerment Foundation.

Wright, who was paralyzed from the waist-down in 1997, was a star football player at Provine High School in Jackson before winning a junior college national championship at Hinds. He spoke to the students about adversity and the value of perseverance.

“Every day, we wake up with a choice,” Wright said to an enthusiastic response. “You must be honest. You must have character.”

Wright told the students that because their lives could change in a moment, they needed to strive to achieve their maximum potential.

“If anybody ever told you life is fair, they told you a story,” Wright said. “If you’re not trying to make all-A’s, you’re never going to make all-A’s. You have to have a physical life, too.”

Janet McMaster, the physical education teacher at Beechwood, said the students took to the Project Fit equipment quickly.

“I really think this is going to enhance the class,” McMaster said. “The kids can come out during the afternoon and hopefully, bring their parents with them on the weekends or after school.”

McMaster said that for her class, students will rotate around to ensure a full-body workout. She said that unlike traditional fitness regimens, the equipment entices students to get fit while having fun.

“Basically, they’ll just go to different stations to work on upper-body and lower-body conditioning,” McMaster said. “They tell us what they like. The weighted hoops have been a big hit. I have to tell them that we can’t just do those every day.”

Since 2006, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation has invested more than $4.5 million to place Project Fit America equipment at 188 elementary and middle schools around the state. PFA is a national nonprofit organization that provides health and fitness programs to schools. Besides the physical fitness equipment, PFA provides structured physical fitness curriculum and training for physical education teachers.

The program also monitors its own progress, studying students’ body-mass index and other fitness data to find which strategies and equipment work best.

Sheila Grogan, Executive Director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation was excited to help add another set of Project Fit equipment to Beechwood.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi has a vision of a healthier Mississippi,” Grogan said. “The foundation provides targeted grants to help all Mississippians become healthy. Through this health and fitness program at Beechwood Elementary, we hope that students take advantage of an opportunity to become healthier.”

For more information on the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, visit To learn more, visit