The Heart of the Matter

Posted 08/21/2013 | By HealthCorps

August 21, 2013

CONTACT: Kaitlyn MacGregor

Film Featuring Benson Polytechnic High School Premiers at the Portland Film Festival

HealthCorps documentary The Heart of the Matter premiers at the Portland Film Festival 3 p.m. Saturday, August 31, www.portlandfilmfestival.com. The film follows the health and wellness journey of Portland, Oregon’s Benson Polytechnic High School faculty and students. Together they work to create a healthy school culture by taking an innovative approach that includes making significant changes to schedules, curriculum and the school’s outlook on health.

HealthCorps coordinator Amy Barras started at Benson at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year. She spent much of her first year building relationships among the staff and community while simultaneously working to build excitement about health education among the students, championing healthy activities, classroom lessons and Cooking Club. Barras’ second year at Benson saw a group of teachers and administrators come together with the hope of transforming the student culture into one that prioritized wellness. The Fit to Live and Learn wellness program was born from this collaboration and took form during the 2012-2013 school year – it was this program and their journey to health and wellness that was documented in The Heart of the Matter.

“I started out as a teacher myself, so getting to make a film in a school like Benson High, where the teachers and the students are clearly getting so much joy out of teaching, learning and, especially, being healthy, was incredibly inspiring,” said Director of The Heart of the Matter, Kelly Amis. “I wish every student could have the opportunity to attend a school like Benson and benefit from a program like HealthCorps – it is clearly improving the lives of not just the students, but their families and community too.

The Fit to Live and Learn program began with Barras and the physical education teachers asking students to set healthy goals and track their accomplishments. Over the following nine months, the freshman class of around 250 students lost a total of 1,233 pounds, and each student decreased their mile run time by an average of two minutes. Students in the video talk about their personal health and wellness goals and accomplishments, including weight loss, increased activity both in and out of school, and an improvement in their ability to focus in class and on their work.

The Heart of the Matter highlights HealthCorps coordinator Amy Barras’ work in Benson High School and demonstrates the tremendous impact that focusing on health and wellness education can have on students and their communities,” said HealthCorps Chief Academic Officer Shawn Hayes. “By fostering health and wellness among students we are giving them the tools to help them lead healthy lives and succeed.”

Fit to Live and Learn had also restructured classes to integrate daily physical activity into freshman schedules and use research-supported strategies to effectively engage students so they become invested in the program. Benson’s goals to help freshmen excel will be achieved through collaboration with PE and health classes to address both the gap in physical fitness and academic achievement.

Benson has experienced the benefits of a rejuvenated health and wellness program in multiple ways and plans to continue their work in creating and building a school culture that embraces creative, effective health and wellness.

The Heart of the Matter can be viewed at Mission Theater (1624 NW Glisan St.) on Saturday, August 31 at 3 PM and Sunday, September 1 at 2 PM. A full schedule and tickets can be found online at www.portlandfilmfestival.com.

About HealthCorps:

HealthCorps®, www.healthcorps.org, is a 501 (C) 3 co-founded by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the world-renowned cardiac surgeon and two-time Daytime Emmy® Award-winning host of the three time Daytime Emmy® Award-winning “The Dr. Oz Show”, and his wife, Lisa Oz, to combat the childhood obesity crisis. HealthCorps is building a nationwide movement to shape a new generation.

HealthCorps coordinators carry out unique in-school and community programming targeting high-need populations. Using peer-mentoring to deliver a progressive curriculum in nutrition, fitness and mental strength, HealthCorps Coordinators give teens purpose, help develop human character, and inspire an interest in health and culinary arts careers. HealthCorps also serves as a unique research laboratory – exploring the complex, underlying causes of the obesity crisis and discovering and communicating solutions. HealthCorps is bringing many initiatives together to address the whole child and activate the students’ mind, body and spirit. As a result, HealthCorps is transforming the educational paradigm one school at a time. The program network spans 62 schools in 13 states  and the District of Columbia.

In the fall of 2012, HealthCorps introduced HealthCorps University, a new train the trainer professional development program that makes the HealthCorps principles and curriculum available to virtually any school. Through HealthCorps University and the Coordinator program, HealthCorps hopes to have a presence in 100 schools by 2015.

You can follow HealthCorps on Twitter at www.twitter.com/healthcorps and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthCorps.

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