Turnout for the McKinney ISD’s annual volunteer Expo was overflowing Tuesday with hundreds of mentors, PTA/PTO members, parents and community volunteers spending their morning learning more about their roles in supporting their local schools and taking in a few goodies offered by dozens of local sponsors.
Photo: Dr. Kenneth Cooper (L), of the famed Cooper Clinic in Dallas with Dr. J.D. Kennedy, MISD Superintendent of Schools
The MISD Expo is an annual event to bring together parents and community members for some training and to find out more about supporting their local public school system. This year’s turnout had organizers scouring the church for additional tables to provide enough seats for lunch.
“We have excellent community support, and that makes such a difference,” said MISD Supt. Dr. J.D. Kennedy, thanking the many volunteers for their time and energy spent on MISD schools.
More than two dozen breakout sessions offered volunteer training and parent education with topics ranging from mentoring, PTA/PTO training, “Top 10 Tools to Survive Middle School,” and “The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander” to name just a few.
Sponsor tables lined the hallways offering information on local clinics, hospitals, healthy meal planning, the fire department, the American Heart Association, martial arts, restaurants and a lot more.
The MISD used the event to showcase its new health initiatives designed to educate students and families about childhood obesity, nutrition and the importance of exercise. Dr. Kennedy said the MISD is committed to fighting the growing epidemic of overweight students with a comprehensive initiative that includes nutrition education, fitness programs, parent education and a stricter snack policy.
“In the past I had said, I don’t want to be intrusive in the lives of our students in most things. But I have come to realize just how severe the problem is with childhood obesity,” Dr. Kennedy said. “We have got to do our part to help our students, because I don’t want to see our students have a shorter life expectancy than us. So I think it is a moral imperative to do everything we can to help our students learn what it is to be healthy and to stay fit.”
To highlight the new program, the Keynote speaker was health and fitness pioneer Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of Cooper Aerobics whose 1968 book, “Aerobics,” began the focus on regular exercise and a healthy diet as the best way to get healthy and stay healthy.
Dr. Cooper gave a detailed presentation on the negative effects of obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise on learning, and the positive results on learning in districts that added a strong focus on physical fitness.
“This may be the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” said Dr. Cooper. “Every year since 1900, our life expectancy has gone up. Now it is going down.”
Dr. Cooper attributed the climb in childhood obesity to several factors including fast food, less exercise and an average of 40 hours a week of screen time for young people.
If there was ever a “get healthy” program with a chance of success, this may it with the coordinated efforts of McKinney’s health-conscious Mayor Brian Loughmiller, the MISD’s new health initiatives and Dr. Cooper’s pledge to work to make families healthier.