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Miss Virginia urges healthy lifestyles
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Campbell Court Elementary School students exercise with Miss Virginia Desiree Williams during a program this week. (Bulletin photo by Paul Collins)

Friday, February 14, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

2013 Miss Virginia Desiree Williams, whose personal platform issue is “Fighting Childhood Obesity: Let’s Move!,” visited Campbell Court Elementary on Tuesday to promote healthful eating and physical activity.

The occasion was the school’s semiannual family reading night, but this was the first time a Miss Virginia had attended, said Elizabeth White, reading specialist at Campbell Court and coordinator of the event.

Wearing a yellow blouse, black slacks and her Miss Virginia tiara and sash, Williams invited the children in the gymtorium to come up front and sit on the floor in front of her. Nearly a dozen children did.

Williams read the book “Miss Fox’s Class Shapes Up” by Eileen Spinelli. It deals with Miss Fox’s students, who are physically slow, mentally dull and cranky until they learn to eat better, exercise and get more sleep.

Williams reviewed some of the themes of the book by asking the children questions and helping them with answers if needed, such as: How may days do you want to be healthy? Every day. What does it take to be healthy? Physical activity and eating healthy foods. (She also reviewed some of the vegetables and fruits mentioned in the book.) How much physical activity do you need to do each and every day? An hour. How many minutes in an hour? 60.

Williams asked the children what kinds of physical activities they like to do.

“Girls on the Run,” one girl said, referring to a program that trains girls for a 5K run and provides lessons on nutrition, body image, avoiding peer pressure and other topics.

Another girl said, “Jump Rope for Heart.”

Williams explained to the children that physical activity makes a person breathe more oxygen and the heart pump more blood, which are good for the body and brain.

Williams displayed a poster about food groups and asked the children to define the food group, name certain major food groups and give examples of proteins, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy.

“Just as important as what we eat is how much we eat,” Williams said.

She used her palms to explain plate size and serving size — with her right palm being the serving size for protein and her left palm being the serving size for grains.

She used her right fingers to represent vegetables and her left fingers to represent fruits.

“You can increase the size of your plate by adding fruits and vegetables,” she said, with dairy is “on the side.”

Next, Williams asked for three volunteers from among the children to join her in participating in a mini-pageant. She chose students Patricia Mabe, Charlotte Wells and Esmerelda Hernandez Bonilla.

The contestants stated their favorite vegetable. Williams named eggplant, and the girls’ answers included carrots and tomatoes.

Williams asked the entire audience to stand up for the next part of the mini-pageant. The three contestants stated and demonstrated their favorite physical activities, and the audience took part in those activities. Williams did lunges; Patricia, jumping jacks; Charlotte, plié (a knee bend in ballet); and Esmerelda, pushups.

Audience members participated in varying degrees (or not at all) depending on the difficulty of the exercise, age and physical condition.

The last part of the pageant was to walk as a model. Williams went first, with a lot of side to side hip movement. The three girls’ movements ranged from skipping to swinging arms to prancing. Williams told the audience that applause for each contestant would determine the winner. However, the applause for each girl was so close that Williams declared the contest a tie.

After her presentation ended, Williams autographed cards with her photograph and information about her. Children, and some adults, also had their photographs taken with her wearing a miniature tiara.

The program was “good,” and it let children know “if you follow your dreams, the success you can climb to in life,” said Trey Harris, band director at Bassett High School, who was with his daughters, Anne Catherine, 10, and Addison, 4.

Anne Catherine said she had fun, learned “how to stay healthy and be active,” and enjoyed putting on a tiara and having her picture taken with Miss Virginia.

Patricia Mabe also said she had fun, enjoyed being in the mini-pageant and learned to “be active for 60 minutes” every day.

“I enjoyed the emphasis on being healthy,” said Patricia’s mom, Angela Paitsel-Mabe, a teacher at Campbell Court. “She (Williams) was very personable with the children. She was very interactive. She got them involved.”

Williams told the audience at one point in the program that a friend of hers attended Campbell Court many years before. Elizabeth White said Williams told her she was referring to M.C. Gravely, Miss Virginia business manager.

In an interview, Williams, 24, of Newport News, said she is pursuing a doctorate of physical therapy at Hampton University and aspires to be a neurologic physical therapist. That’s a physical therapist “who specializes in the evaluation and treatment of individuals with movement problems due to disease or injury of the nervous system,” according to the website of The Neurology Section, American Physical Therapy Association.

Williams said an example is people who have traumatic brain injury.

Williams said she is visiting 20 to 30 schools in Virginia giving programs similar to the one at Campbell Court.


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