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by Shelley Murphy
Cindi Juncal enrolled in So Cal Boot Camp’s six week fitness challenge in February 2012 and came out a winner-and, surprisingly, so did the youth of San Clemente.
“If a fitness challenge can be life-changing to someone like me who is over 50, think of the endless possibilities given to a child, teen or young adult with their whole lives ahead of them?” Juncal thought.
By late 2012 Juncal’s passion for fitness led her to leap from SCBC participant to fitness coach and founder of The Noble Path Foundation, a nonprofit organization, dedicated to turning the tide on childhood obesity through nutritional awareness and physical fitness.
“I want to share how adopting a healthy lifestyle can put anyone on the right path towards greater happiness and self-confidence,” said Juncal, who has a special education degree from the University of San Diego and a long history of child advocacy.
“My goal is to educate as many young people, and their parents, on how their food choices affect their potential health problems in the future - diet and nutrition are crucial steps in stopping the obesity epidemic,” said Juncal.
In her nutrition seminars Juncal reveals startling statistics on the rising obesity rate. If the upsurge continues she said, “This generation of kids will be the first in the history of our culture not to outlive their parents.”
In the 1970s the FDA recommended reducing fat consumption to 30% and sugar consumption skyrocketed; the global population saw a 727% increase in diabetes from 1985 to 2010. “The only ingredient that correlates with the increase in diabetes is sugar,” she says.
Sugar regulates the same receptors in reward centers as other chemical addictions; therefore, to satisfy sugar cravings it’s necessary to ingest more and more sugar to achieve the same pleasure.
“This is the definition of addiction. And we’ll be dooming our children to this sugar addiction if we don’t do something to stop it,” said Juncal. “I devour literature on this topic, and the more I learn I get infuriated with the food industry-they know what they’re doing. It’s like poisoning; people are dying because of the food they’re eating.”
Juncal’s extensive research and steadfast dedication to assist adolescents inspired her to create a goal oriented 9-week challenge combining physical activity and nutritional education. “It’s a one-of-a-kind program never before offered,” she said.
Juncal met with Vista Del Mar Middle School (VDMMS) Principal Sandra McKinney and Physical Education teachers Mark Yanaura, Sandy Tenney, and Sam Shepherd to discuss implementing her program.
Principal McKinney said, “We’ll incorporate this program into our Physical Education classes one day a week for nine weeks. VDMMS is committed to ensuring that our students are educated on sound nutrition and healthy lifestyles.”
P.E. teacher at VDMMS for eight years, Yanaura said, “Our P.E. department believes that proper exercise and nutrition is a necessity not a luxury.”
Juncal recruited Samantha Johnson, So Cal Boot Camp Personal Trainer & Nobel Path Foundation Training Director and Youth Sports Specialist to join the team. Johnson said she jumped at the opportunity, “I want to educate kids at a young age and get them excited so hopefully they continue it for years to come.”
Yanaura agreed, “We believe this program will not only increase the quantity of life, but more importantly the quality of life.”
Johnson said the program’s both fun and functional, “We’re going to introduce students to a wide variety of activities and each week we’ll be covering something different. The entire program’s injury prevention based, as well.”
Yanaura hopes the pilot program both enhances programs already in place and motivates students to reach standardized curricular objectives. One objective is preparing students for the annual Presidential Youth Fitness Program.
“We’re looking at different assessments, one being improvement in the Presidential Fitness test score; including endurance, flexibility, upper body strength, agility, and abdominal strength,” said Yanaura. In addition, students will write a reflective assessment of their experience.
While the 9-week program encourages students, parent involvement plays a key role in student success.
“So Cal Boot Camp is offering parents a discounted membership rate so they can workout at the same time as their kids and be doing something together,” said Johnson.
“We believe parents will be as excited as we are knowing students are being motivated and educated about a healthy life style,” said Yanaura.
Ultimately both The Noble Path Foundation and VDMMS share similar goals. “We all hope the kids see that getting involved with sports and becoming more active makes them feel better about themselves and they’ll want to incorporate exercise into their everyday activity as a lifestyle,” said Johnson.
At the conclusion of the 9-week program Principal McKinney said, “We’ll evaluate the results with staff, students and parents and based on this feedback we’ll discuss options for next school year.”
While school applies their methodology to measure the program’s success, Juncal said her criteria is quite clear: “If I can make a difference in the life of just one of these kids, then everything I’m doing is worth it.”