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Fitness Education Surging in Area Schools, Thanks To Community Partnership

By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Independence Blue Cross Foundation is partnering with the Philadelphia Union soccer team to help teach kids about healthy eating, fitness, and wellness.

Healthy Futures is a three-year, $3-million effort that touches more than 1,000 fourth graders in the five-county area.

Today, at a South Philadelphia school, the program was in full swing.

"I learned how to control the ball and how to eat healthy," said ten-year-old Hatheem, afterward.  He's one of eighteen students at St. Gabriel's School, on Dickinson Street, who took lessons today on living a healthy lifestyle, how to exercise, and how to play soccer -- thanks to advice from Philadelphia Union rookie midfielder Pedro Ribeiro (below left), who moved here from Brazil last year.


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(Pedro Ribeiro answers students' questions about being a professional athlete. Photo by Cherri Gregg)



"I told them to believe in their dreams," Ribeiro said after speaking to the students, "and if they want to be a professional athlete, just follow that dream and do what they need to do, on and off the field."

Ribeiro notes that a healthy lifestyle is a big part of his work off the pitch.

"It's more pressure coming from college to a professional (team)," he said, "so my off-the-field work is just as important as me playing. So I have to get my rest, eat right, and exercise."

Independence Blue Cross Foundation senior analyst Maureen Furletti says they'll be following the students through sixth grade:

"Fourth graders are that prime age," she notes.  "They're not too young to understand nutrition, to where they've started bad habits."

The program continues, with healthy eating, later this week.

Furletti says the goal is to teach kids to "eat right," "get fit," and "stay well."  Additional contributors to the program include Greener Partners.

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