GENOA – For Lisa Cumings, the best part about her job is seeing children “catch on.”
Cumings, community liaison with Kishwaukee Community Hospital and coordinator of CATCH, Coordinated Approach to Child Health, said she is often approached by students who have learned about CATCH and are excited to talk about it.
The number of students “catching on” to healthier choices is about to grow. Genoa-Kingston Middle School is the latest DeKalb County school to implement the national CATCH program to promote healthier food options and active lifestyles.
“I would love to see this countywide,” Cumings said. “We’re in our second year, and we’re in three school districts right now.”
After receiving about $3,000 in grants from Genoa-Kingston’s education foundation and the DeKalb County Community Foundation, the middle school is the first school in District 424 to host CATCH. It also is the first middle school in the county to implement CATCH. The program will focus on sixth-graders, Cumings said.
“I’m excited to see what all it involves,” District 424 Superintendent Joe Burgess said. “It opens a lot of doors for resources for our staff.”
Both the DeKalb and Sycamore school districts already have incorporated CATCH into their elementary schools.
DeKalb hosts CATCH days in which Northern Illinois University students go into the classrooms and teach the children about healthy food choices. The DeKalb schools also have a bar of fresh fruits and vegetables for children to choose from at lunch.
Sycamore’s after-school program promotes healthy lifestyles through group lessons and exercise. Both districts use CATCH as a model in their physical education curriculum as well.
“While all the districts are implementing it in different ways, the message is the same,” Sycamore Superintendent Kathy Countryman said.
Cumings said the G-K program would use the DeKalb schools as a model in that it will mostly be classroom-based with possible fruit and vegetable bars and family fun nights.
DeKalb Superintendent Jim Briscoe said CATCH is thriving in all eight elementary schools because of the collaborative effort of the staff, students and parents.
“Everybody is working together and making sure this is something we’re all going to promote and encourage,” he said.
Countryman said many students at the five Sycamore elementary schools are excited every time they engage in a CATCH activity.
“I think it works well because we’re able to implement it during the after-school program, so the kids view it as fun and a piece of their day,” she said. “What we’ve seen a little bit is they’re starting to spread the word, too.”
Spreading the word is something Burgess said he hopes will lead to more CATCH opportunities within District 424. But he is glad to be a part of a pilot program at the middle school level.
“We do hope it expands,” he said. “The middle school is a really good age to hit because obviously the middle-schoolers go through a lot of changes.”
Healthier lifestyles lead to happier students who are eager to come to school and learn every day, Burgess said.
Cumings said implementing the program at a more mature age will be a challenge, but she’s looking forward to it.
“Middle school is different,” she said. “We can’t do the exact same things we do in an elementary school. We’ve got to be strategic in that.”
Briscoe said he is a strong advocate for CATCH and the overall movement toward a healthier, more appealing community.
“I think it’s such a critical part of what we need to do to educate students,” he said.