The promise that ended last school year became a reality on the first day of school Tuesday for Oak Grove Upper Elementary School after officials received a health and fitness grant from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation of almost $100,000.
The grant for the 2017-18 school year helps the school to expand its “Fit to Be a Warrior” program with activities like a rock wall, ropes challenge course and teacher fitness facility and renovations to the greenhouse and barn-classroom.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation Health and Fitness Coordinator Eugenia King presented OGUE physical education coach Ryan McKenzie, AgArt teacher Heather Giger and Principal Heather Roland with a check for $96,980 Tuesday afternoon at the school.
“We couldn’t be more excited,” Roland said Tuesday. “We wanted to start off school with a bang, not only to get these kids excited about regular school, but now we have all this extra for them. We want them to be excited every day and we hope they feel that excitement.”
King said the grant is the first of its kind to an elementary school in Mississippi.
“We encourage the schools to develop some type of program,” she said. “Don’t just add a walking trail. Develop a program that focuses on not just students, but the staff and the community. For us, it was something different (at OGUE) because we had never funded something that is similar to this. For the kids to learn about farm animals and growing their food, it is very educational.”
“The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation supports Mississippi’s schools in being places where students and faculty alike are encouraged and enabled to make healthy choices each day,” said Sheila Grogan, Executive Director of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “We are proud to support the expansion of Oak Grove Upper Elementary’s ‘Fit to Be a Warrior’ program.”
The barn is a $6,970 sheet metal horse barn that measures 42 feet long and 26 feet wide. Renovations include adding water and electricity to the structure along with flooring. Giger said earlier that the barn will become more utilized when improvements are made.
“We have had goats here,” Giger said. “We are going to have visiting animals here. Other classes come in and do things in the garden, even without me. It’s integrated throughout the subject areas.”
Roland said the school hopes to reach out to the community.
“We are hoping to have visitors come, like farmers and cattlemen and just bring that into that barn,” she said. “The kids can see how our garden and our fitness really work together. We are so happy to physically offer this to our children.”
Roland also praised the work of McKenzie and Giger to obtain the grant. “If it weren’t for those two, we wouldn’t have that check today,” she said, also crediting other OGUE staff and teachers for their help on the project.
The school campus is located at 1760 Old Hwy. 24, Hattiesburg.