Volunteers from PepsiCo in Westchester joined staff and their AmeriCorps members at the Park Avenue School to run activities for children in grades K-2 focusing on physical, nutritional and social well-being on Wednesday.
The morning activities were structured around the importance of fitness, nutrition and environmental health. The program ran from 9:30 to 11:45 a.m.
“Port Chester schools have had a longstanding relationship with Open Door,” said Park Avenue Elementary Principal Rosa Taylor. “They have a school based health care centers and really do their best for the children in any way they can.”
The district has a 15-year with relationship with Open Door. Open Door Family Medical Centers are located throughout Westchester with locations in Port Chester, Ossining, Mount Kisco and Sleepy Hollow. Open Door has four school-based health centers in Port Chester.
“Today is really about health and wellness. Taking the things out of the medical setting and taking them into the classroom and community,” said Abby Thomas of Open Door. “It’s a continuation of what we do during the school year. Our health educators actually go into the classroom and teach about handwashing, bullying prevention, dental health and more.”
PepsiCo, has been running the Pepsi Gives Back program for last four years. This year, PepsiCo had about 500 volunteers heading out to different locations around the tri-state area to help teach about the importance of nutrition and exercise.
“We work with the volunteer center of the United Way,” said Christine Mungo, Manager of Citizenship and Assisting Ability of PepsiCo. “They help us identify the places and the organizations that could use the help. They got us in touch with Open Door.”
Parents were invited to stay and have a meal with their children at the end of the day.
“This program gives children the chance to learn in a social environment,” said Taylor. “For some of them they are only learning their new language in a classroom setting. They will be practicing and incorporating their language learning into the program. Practicing a new language in a social setting really supports what is taught in the classroom.”
In addition to learning and relay races, teachers use this event to support the kids academically. Spanish-speaking students learned English while English-speaking children learned Spanish. That day’s activities were spoken in both languages as well.
“The children at Park Avenue during summer are part of a English-Spanish speaking program,” added Taylor. “It gives the Spanish speaking children who are learning English and English children who are learning Spanish a structure and chance to continue their practice during the summer. It is very important for students to practice and not take three months off from their new language.”
“Our first goal in this program is to help people learn about nutrition," said Mungo. "How you should eat, what you should eat and the quantities you should eat. I hope the kids will take the lesson and that it is a day they will remember.