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The Penn Quaker marched off the football field and into Spruce Hill Christian School yesterday, pumping up the K-8 school’s Penn Fitness for Life mentor program.

Twice a week, about 50 students learned about health and fitness with Penn student volunteers before they start their after-school activities. The volunteers teach nutrition lessons and run activities inside the school’s cathedral-like auditorium.

“The program’s primary focus is exposing obesity in America because it is a serious problem,” said College junior Aki Bajulaiye, Penn Fitness for Life’s treasurer. A track runner, Bajulaiye has a special investment in the world of exercise and fitness. “We are looking for ways to expose it more throughout and around campus.”

Penn Fitness for Life, which was founded in the fall of 2010, seeks to show the importance of health and fitness in addition to academics. At the first after-school session, one Penn Fitness for Life member lectured about fat molecules and “triglyceride,” but realized it might have been too complex for the students. Later sessions wound down to simply explaining the food pyramid.

The program also involves physical activities. Yesterday, the students ran a relay race with hula hoops and cone obstacles. Later, the volunteers joined in on a dodgeball game against students.

Before the dodgeball game and relay race, the kids sat according to grade, buzzing with pent-up energy after a long day of school.

Second-grader Jordan explained that the program is fun, but he was bored yesterday because it was hot. He sat around and lackadaisically introduced his schoolmates.

Then the Quaker arrived.

Shrieks of excitement erupted as the mascot walked into the room. They climbed him, pulled at his faux ponytail and grappled at his legs.

“I can see his white neck,” pointed one of the older kids. “He is an imposter!”

Kindergartner Julian brought his attitude to the dodgeball game afterwards. “Who hit me, who hit me, you hit me?” he questioned a teammate in dodgeball.

“He is so adorable,” College junior Amanda Bader said, a sentiment felt by both students and volunteers alike. Instead of throwing balls at the opposing team, Julian taunted the volunteers with a most intimidating display of air punches. He lacked the reflexes to dodge the incoming balls and had to do the 10 jumping jacks required to get back in the game. Unlike his classmates who only did a few “jumping jacks,” though, he embodied the spirit of Penn Fitness for Life by doing the full set, or at least as close to it as he could keep track.

This dedication could certainly be appreciated by College juniors Varun Patel and Dipesh Patel. Varun is Penn Fitness for Life’s vice president, and Dipesh donated hundreds of dollars for the group to buy equipment before they began receiving Student Activities Council funding two months ago.

“We saw the potential in Penn Fitness for Life,” Co-President and College junior Dan Lewis said, explaining the reason for funding the group out-of-pocket since it began in 2010.

The group currently has more than 70 members. “I feel like a problem like obesity [and] fitness is something that interests most students, especially at a campus like Penn where everyone is trying to get fit and find a way to volunteer,” Bajulaiye said.

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