Gannon University Program Helps Students Get Summer Fit at Bayview Park

Posted: August 3, 2017

Inspired by the success of the Club Fit program at the former East and Strong Vincent High Schools, Gannon University, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Erie, has launched Summer Fit, a seven-week play-based fitness program for ages 5-12.

Like Club Fit, the program launched five years ago by Gannon University in partnership with Hamot Health Foundation and the Erie School District, Summer Fit teaches fitness, nutrition and wellness.

Conducted at Bayview Park at the foot of Cherry Street in the West Bayfront neighborhood adjacent to campus, Summer Fit varies from the more rigorous Club Fit curriculum, which included a pre-test to assess fitness and a post-test to measure achievement of goals.

"Club Fit was a research project where the same girls attended the sessions, but Summer Fit is open to the children who show up on any given day," said Kaitlyn Falk, a 2016 Gannon graduate in nutrition and human performance. "There's a fitness-based curriculum planned with an intentional focus, but it's play-based."

Falk was one of the Gannon students who worked at the Club Fit program. Jessica Walsh-Frazier, a graduate student working toward her Master of Public Administration degree, is another. She sees the Summer Fit program as a way to teach healthy behaviors.

"The Club Fit girls came to the program with established eating and exercise habits. They have to unlearn unhealthy behaviors and learn new ones. Through Summer Fit, we can teach healthy behaviors at age eight rather than unlearning unhealthy habits at 16."

Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, children come to Bayview Park for the three-and-a-half-hour program supervised by eight Gannon students and alumni. "We'll talk about cardiovascular fitness and nutrition options," Falk said. "Then we'll play tag."

As befits, a public administration student, Walsh-Frazier sees a societal effect of the program. "The West Bayfront is a food desert and urban areas suffer from a lack of fitness options. We have a moral obligation here. This is our neighborhood. It's a higher poverty area, and kids aren't going to sports camps, so we wanted to support and enhance the programming the Y was doing and bring Summer Fit to the neighborhood."

If successful, the program will be expanded to other city parks in the future.