Volunteer salute: Local teen encourages kids to ‘fuel up to play’

Emily Peters

Emily Peters, 13, an eighth grader at Emily Gray Junior High School, wants to help kids at her school – and beyond – eat healthier and be more active. Emily is the Arizona ambassador for Fuel Up to Play 60, a school based nutrition and physical activity program sponsored by the NFL and the National Dairy Council, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The “60” in the name reminds students to be active for at least 60 minutes each day.

By meeting Fuel Up to Play 60 challenges, kids can win prizes for their school, including visits from NFL players.

At her school, Emily and the FUTP 60 team recently organized a wellnes week that included a healthy eating day. “At lunch we had a table set up with candy and soda and bags of sugar, showing how much sugar is in each item,” she explains.

The team is planning future events such as a smoothie day. Emily hopes to replace the usual pizza and soda at a school dance with fruit smoothies.

She’s starting to see small changes in her classmates, “but kids are really stubborn,” she says. “They think that just because something’s healthy it’ll taste bad.”

A school counselor encouraged Emily to apply to become a FUTP 60 ambassador after Emily participated in a wellness club at Emily Gray in seventh grade. Her application essay detailed her own healthy lifestyle – eating lots of vegetables and fruits, limiting sugar, playing volleyball and basketball, walking her dog, doing Pilates, and swimming every day in the summer. She also wrote about her community involvement, such as her Bat Mitzvah project, which included giving presentations on growing and preparing healthy food at Tucson Village Farm, working as a counselor at their summer camp and donating funds for two children to attend the camp. She’ll be taking her eighth grade class at Congregation Chaverim on a field trip to the farm, and she also gave a presentation about healthy eating at last year’s Math, Science, and Technology Funfest at the Tucson Convention Center.

Emily and her mother, Karen Peters, a health coach, follow what they call a “plant-strong” diet. The term, Karen says, is less restrictive and more positive than labels such as “vegan” or “vegetarian.”

Karen serves as a Fuel Up to Play 60 program advisor at Emily Gray Junior High, joining the team last summer when the counselor who introduced the program was unable to accompany Emily on a leadership training trip to Washington, D.C.

“We learned a lot of really good leadership skills, and we learned all about eating healthy food and being active. I feel more like a leader now, and I feel like I’m doing something good,” says Emily.

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