Running with Marathon Kids Brings Gibson Elementary Students Together
By Catherine Morris
“Weldon Gibson Elementary School is like a place of refuge for our students,” says coach and PE teacher Miguel Aceves. “With all the distractions they have, like computer games, iPads, laptops, gaming devices, television, improper diets, illness—and then those who do not know where they will be sleeping or having their next meal—at the very least they can count on being physically active for 50 minutes Monday through Friday.”
For Aceves, physical activity represents not just good health, but also stability and routine—important cornerstones for his students at Gibson. The school is located in an area of Corpus Christi, Texas, that faces ongoing challenges like poverty and criminal activity. Some of Aceves’s students come from single-parent homes, while others live with aunts, uncles or grandparents. Some are in foster care. Some live in motels and low-income housing. “Our school feeds the students, clothes some of them, and tries to show them a path to a better life.”
To Aceves, Marathon Kids is part of that better path. “The challenge is trying to give each student a template of what life can be if they get their education, eat healthy and be physically active,” he says. “Marathon Kids gives the school a sense of pride and unity.”
Students Build Stamina, One Step and One Mile at a Time
“Now that the Marathon Kids program has been at our school for the last three or four years,” Aceves says, “it has become routine, and the students enjoy it.” Of course, it was tough to keep up the routine during periods of remote learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, the Gibson community is close-knit, and the school culture is all about treating students with kindness, care and respect. “When students come back after a long absence,” Aceves says, “I make sure I let them know that I missed them.”
Now that Gibson students are back in the classroom, they are rebuilding their mental and physical stamina as they make daily physical activity a routine once again. One day a week, the students run a full mile. The rest of the week, they run a half-mile each day, along with the other activities Aceves incorporates as part of his daily PE lesson plans.
On Tuesdays, for example, the students have Tennis Success lessons. Since the Marathon Kids program counts 20 minutes of heart-pumping activity as equivalent to running one mile, Aceves or his assistant can manually enter those active minutes into Marathon Kids Connect—a free, cloud-based platform that makes it fun and simple to track and report on kids’ active time. That way, the students’ tennis-playing counts toward their overall mileage.
When the students run, Aceves and his assistant use the Marathon Kids Connect app to scan their ID cards, which logs their mileage automatically. “We use our personal phones,” Aceves says, “and an iPad that the district has provided us with.” He and his assistant appreciate how easy it is to use Marathon Kids Connect, he says, as well as “the support from the people who make Marathon Kids happen.”
“My students see that we are one of the leaders of the program within the district,” he says, “and they are proud of themselves for what they have accomplished.”
Marathon Kids Helps Students Learn to Do Their Best
Encouraging his students to do their best is foundational for Aceves. He always encourages them to keep moving, even when the running gets tough. He motivates them with stickers on their ID cards when they hit certain milestones or accomplish certain goals. He also taps into their natural competitive sides to keep them motivated.
“When we let them know how many miles they have completed,” he says, “then the competition begins, with each student trying to outdo the other.” His students love trying to best each other. “They try to finish first, before anyone else,” Aceves says. “They play races and try to lap each other.”
But they also take pride in what they accomplish together, as a group. Corpus Christi ISD has adopted Marathon Kids across all campuses, and Aceves uses the data reports available within Marathon Kids Connect to promote his school district-wide. “My students see that we are one of the leaders of the program within the district,” he says, “and they are proud of themselves for what they have accomplished.”
Coach Aceves has seen benefits in Marathon Kids not just for his students, but also for himself and his co-workers, and even for the parents and volunteers who sometimes help out with the run club. “We all have healthier attitudes,” he says, “and we all want to improve.”
Continuing to move forward, even when it’s tough, and always striving to improve—these are lessons Gibson students will carry as they follow the path to better and healthier lives.
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