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Benton Middle School has been awarded $10,517 from the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Commission as part of the 2012 Child Wellness Intervention Project Grant Program.
Dian Cowser, the school's assistant principal, accepted the award in a recent ceremony at the state Capitol in Little Rock.
Dr. Joe Thompson, Arkansas surgeon general, and Dr. Susan Hanahan, chair of the Tobacco Settlement Commission, made the presentations to Benton Middle School and other state schools selected for the grants.
At the ceremony, the commission reportedly awarded a total of $764,761 in grants to 67 individual schools in 38 districts in Arkansas.
In the coming 2012-13 school year, more than 15,309 students are expected to participate in the Child Wellness Intervention Project program that will be funded through the grants.
Funding for this program came from the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act, which was passed by 65 percent of Arkansas voters in 2002. The act specified that tobacco settlement funds received by the state should be used exclusively to improve the health of Arkansans through smoking prevention and cessation, increased access to health care and health education, and investment in important medical research.
Program officials have noted that Arkansas ranks eighth in the nation for childhood obesity.
The commission's Child Wellness Intervention Project focuses on reducing this problem by increasing physical activity through quality physical education programs and providing critical health education.
The commission has partnered with the Arkansas Department of Education's Office of Coordinated School Health, Arkansas Children's Hospital and Arkansas Center for Health Improvement to accomplish the goal.
Among the supporters of the program is Arkansas first lady Ginger Beebe, who stated: "I am excited to see the grant program implemented in schools across our state. This will provide vital education and resources for parents and teachers to help children be active and healthy."
The program also has gained the sanction of golfer Annika Sorenstam, who has dominated women's golf in the past two decades. Her foundation, the Annika Foundation, has devoted significant resources to developing and implementing physical fitness and nutrition programs for children in the United States.
Sorenstam reportedly chose to endorse the new Child Wellness Intervention grant program based on its use of grade-specific physical education curriculum and equipment â€” known as SPARK â€” with which her foundation has developed a partnership.
"SPARK is a tremendous program that has the potential to dramatically improve the health of thousands of Arkansas students," Sorenstam said. "I have a passion to get people active, especially children, and this program is providing the tools necessary to make sure students know and experience the importance of maintaining their body and their mind."