First Lady Michelle Obama brought her “Let’s Move Campaign” to chilly Harlem Thursday where she broke more than a sweat with area children.
Close to 70 students from PS 180 packed the Central Harlem Police Athletic League to meet someone “special.”
“All we know is someone from Washington is coming,” shouted some of the kids. “We think it’s President Obama.”
Though many predicted the President was paying them a visit, the kids weren’t disappointed one bit when they saw The First Lady walk out in her workout gear to hop, skip and jump with them. One of the kids even screamed out where she last saw her.
“I just saw you on the Disney Channel.”
“Oh that’s right, I was on the Disney Channel,” laughed The First Lady.
The First Lady brought her anti-obesity kids program, “Let’s Move,” to the Tri-State area this past week where she also made an appearance at a Newark school with Mayor Cory Booker. But her stop in Harlem was one that was on her radar “for a long time.” Close to 50 percent of children in the Central Harlem zip codes of 10037 and 10039 are “too heavy” according to the City Health Office. Another startling statistic was that one in 5 school kids in New York City are obese.
“Too many children don’t have the resources where they can work out at a center like this, or learn about eating healthier and that’s my mission,” said The First Lady. “For example, if you guys and girls want to become a Police Officer one day like a lot of your trainers, you’ll have to exercise and eat healthy. You’ll have to turn off the video games and run up the stairs. You’ll also have to talk to your parents about what’s good for you and what isn’t.”
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly backed her claim by eliciting a loud “wow” from the students when explaining what it takes to become a police officer.
“First you have to climb a 6-foot wall, run a mile, and beat an obstacle course,” said Kelly to the kids amazement.
“You hear that? You guys have to climb 6-foot walls and run a mile. You can’t do that without exercise and eating healthy right?,” said The First Lady to screams of “no” from the children. “So let’s get started now. I know you guys have already exercised, but I want to work out too.”
The First Lady then proceeded to tackle three different obstacle courses with the energetic children that left her winded. First, she did some football drills – before proceeding to hop-scotch with hula hoops – and a running suicide drill where she met her toughest challenge, nine-year-old student Alex Rodriguez.
“I was so nervous to race her. When I saw I was ahead, I started slowing up a bit,” said Rodriguez. “I can’t beat her. That wouldn’t be nice.”
Alberto Guerrero, a PAL staff member, was elated to see the look on his kids’ faces. Many of the kids at PS 180 are from Black and Latino backgrounds and to see a woman like Michelle Obama visiting them will have long lasting effects.
“You can tell just by looking at these kids faces how inspired and proud they were.”
Guerrero also spoke about the feedback area parents have given him about the program.
“They are elated. Many of these parents work more than one job and don’t really have the time to watch if their kids are eating healthy and exercising. To have us around educating not only their children, but have their children educating them makes everything so much easier.”
More than 50,000 kids participate in the Police Athletic League in NY City yearly. While many didn’t get the chance to meet The First Lady, she will continue to spread the message of health to all.
“When you don’t have resources, you have to come up with creative ways to help your children. PS 180 and PAL have done just that and I expect others to do so as well.”
As the First Lady left, the children ran after her like a rock-star, but many of the kids left jealous of what their classmate Alex experienced when he was next to the First Lady.
“I spoke to her about my grades and exercising. What was great was that she hugged me. I got to hug The First Lady. I never thought anything like this would ever happen. I’m so happy.”