SWAG Conference emphasizes healthy choices for Early College students

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 29, 2015

By Jeanie Groh


Through a series of activities and guest speakers, Rowan County Early College students learned that health is a choice, and it’s often not an easy one.

“We’ve noticed that our numbers of students that are seriously overweight are increasing,” said ninth-grade English teacher Julie Stolze. “It’s worrisome.”

Stolze said she and her fellow teachers watch their students guzzle highly sugared energy drinks and devour fast food and junk food for lunch.

They wanted to do something about it, so they planned the SWAG — safety, wellness and grit – Conference.

“We wanted to bring awareness of health and wellness,” she said. “We just want them to be informed.”

Throughout the day, students attended sessions on health topics such as nutrition, personal safety and body image and health related careers including fire and emergency services.

They were also able to participate in a number of active, hands-on exercise sessions, including kickboxing, strength training and yoga.

Frabrizio Lyles participated in the fire department training and kickboxing sessions.

“It was so intense, but definitely worth it,” he said about kickboxing.

“I actually got to work out,” Lyles said, adding that while he enjoys working out, he hasn’t had an opportunity to do so in a long time.

Dr. Chris Magryta, a doctor at Salisbury Pediatrics, encouraged the students to go out of their comfort zones to make healthy choices during his keynote presentation.

He discussed how healthy choices can overcome genetic dispositions for obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

He touched on eating and sleeping habits, as well as smoking and drug use.

“I don’t have a problem with McDonalds. I have problem with people choosing McDonalds,” Magryta said.

“You can choose right and wrong — change or no change,” he said. “You are in control.”

Those choices won’t always be easy, and they might be uncomfortable from time to time, he said.

“I encourage you to go out and eat things you don’t think you would like,” he added. “Choice leads to change. Change leads to good things.”

Stolze said she believes the student’s health problems stem from both a lack of knowledge and that healthy decisions often are uncomfortable.

“We have to get these kids out of their comfort zone,” she said.

Stolze said she hopes the GRIT Conference will bring about an awareness that becomes the first step for students in taking control of their own health and wellness.

This isn’t the first time Rowan County Early College has held a conference like this.

Three years ago, they held a “truthiness” conference.

“Students were buying anything sold to them on the Internet,” she said.

Not only do these conferences address issues the students are dealing with in everyday life — it prepares them for the professional conferences they could potentially experience in college or career.