By Jeff Noble / Staff Writer
Most people call it a playground.
At Corbin Middle School, students proudly call it “The PFA Fit Pit.”
On Friday they came outside to celebrate the school’s latest achievement — state-of-the-art fitness equipment on the school grounds — which got a thorough workout before the program began at 1 p.m.
That’s only part of it. Inside the school, there’s mobile fitness equipment, along with on-site teacher training, in-class instruction on current topics, and a dynamic curriculum with games and challenges for students.
It’s all part of a partnership between the Corbin Independent Schools, Baptist Health-Corbin, and Project Fit America (PFA) — a national nonprofit organization that creates innovative and sustainable physical education programs in the nation’s schools.
Last year, PFA’s Kentucky State Model and pilot program was rolled out, with Corbin Intermediate School getting the program.
This year, it was Corbin Middle getting the grant, and a donation from Baptist Health-Corbin.
Students, like Lucas Henegar, put the “Fit Pit” to good use by getting on the parallel bars.
“It’s phenomenal. We’re the first class to use this, and I believe it really works. I like the chin-up bars. It helps me build up my strength. But the parallel bars I like the best. All this makes us feel good that we can come out here for gym class, or during breaks or recess,” he said.
Lucas wasn’t the only one. Moments later, fellow student Brooke Skinner came over to give it a try.
She did good.
“It’s very fun, and it really works your arms. The parallel bars are my favorite,” noted Brooke, a 7th grade at Corbin Middle.
Her brother Brodie Skinner agreed. In his case, he was reaching new heights over on the horizontal ladder.
“What’s it like up here? It’s easy going on the way down, but when you climb back up, it’s kind of hard. But overall, I really like it,” he said.
Across one side of the Fit Pit, Payton Jones, Chainey Tolliver and some other 7th graders were trying out some updated versions of items their grandparents may have used in their school days.
Even some team mascots got into the exercise act. The Lexington Legends Minor League baseball team came down from the Bluegrass, just to get “Big L” and “Pee Wee” into shape for next spring.
Closer to home, the University of the Cumberlands sent up “The Patriot” from Williamsburg to give the equipment a try. With a little help from Corbin Middle 7th graders Brendan Henegar and Brevin Callahan, The Patriot scored well doing pull-ups.
The fitness regimen took a break for the program when Corbin Middle’s Principal. Jennifer Parsons, came to the podium.
“Not only do we have this awesome physical education equipment, we have great physical education teachers and a great PE curriculum,” she told the students, dignitaries and guests.
Corbin Independent Schools’ Superintendent Ed McNeel mentioned the school was only one of nine schools in Kentucky with the kind of equipment donated by the hospital and the PFA program.
“When you’re at the top, or near the top, everyone wants to beat you. Congratulations, Corbin Middle School. … We as older adults want the younger generation to lead us in the future. Part of that is being physically fit. Thank you Baptist Health-Corbin for making this possible,” he said.
Baptist Health-Corbin’s CEO Larry Gray spoke next.
“This is an important partnership for us, and with you. It’s an investment for all of us. It’s important for the community, for us, for the school, for Corbin, and especially for you, the students,” he stated.
A proclamation for the event was presented by Corbin Middle student Janvi Patel. Moments later, the hospital was given a gift — a framed print drawn by CMS 8th grader Sydney Hudson.
They brought out the big scissors and red ribbon next. Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. and Baptist Health-Corbin’s Executive Director Mark Steely then joined Gray, McNeel, McBurney, Parsons, Corbin Commissioner Ed Tye, along with school and hospital officials and staff, for the official ribbon cutting.
The Corbin High Cheerleaders later performed, with Corbin Middle PE teachers Patty Smith and Greg Duncum being introduced. They in turn, introduced middle school students who put on fitness demonstrations for the audience.
When the program ended, the students left the “PFA Fit Pit” by making a Conga Line back to the school building.
In getting involved in being physically fit, Corbin Middle “gets it.” And, officials said the outcomes of the program showed increases in students’ fitness at Corbin Intermediate, the last PFA grant recipient.
The school’s students showed a 13 percent increase in upper body strength, an increase in abdominal strength of nearly eight percent, and an increase of over 26 percent in cardiovascular endurance.
Gray said, “This program is part of the long-term commitment we have made to the schools, children and their families.”