T.R. Simmons receives 10K grant for new track

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 8/30/16

The T.R. Simmons Elementary School community has another way to improve their health thanks to a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

Jeff Adams, the community relations manager for BCBS of Alabama, presented a $10,000 Be Healthy …

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T.R. Simmons receives 10K grant for new track


The T.R. Simmons Elementary School community has another way to improve their health thanks to a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.

Jeff Adams, the community relations manager for BCBS of Alabama, presented a $10,000 Be Healthy School Grant to T.R. Simmons on Monday, which paid for the new walking/running track that was completed at the school over to summer.

The City of Jasper paid for the school’s site preparation for the track until the project grant came through.

T.R. Simmons Principal Jonathan Allen and physical education teacher Ann Trotter wrote the grant for the track project, in the hopes of providing another outlet for student fitness.

“We’ve been talking about having a track on the field as we become a kindergarten and 1st grade school next year,” Allen said. “As our role changes, the role of student safety is going to be more paramount, so with having a track on the field, we have kids behind a fence, which is a much safer environment. It’s much more conducive for jogging and running.”

Students originally used a track located in front of the school, which made students closer to traffic on Viking Drive. Their new track is situated around a portion of the school’s fenced in playground that was completed this year.

Adams said BCBS has been awarding the Be Healthy School Grant to schools since 2012.

More than $1 million has been awarded to roughly 114 schools, and Adams encouraged T.R. Simmons to seek further grant opportunities with BCBS.

“Just because you were awarded this year does not mean you’re disqualified from applying again,” he said. “I applaud you for what you all are doing and your help to support our students.”

When reviewing T.R. Simmons’ grant application, Adams said the school met the three goals they look for in grant recipients, which are parental involvement, nutrition and exercise. The school’s active PTO satisfied the parental involvement qualifier, and the school’s implementation of the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) program and their track proposal satisfied the nutrition and exercise components.

The new track is being dedicated in Trotter’s honor to recognize her 38 years of service to the school and her impact on thousands of students. Outside of T.R. Simmons, she has also been a swim coach for over 25 years in the community.

“She was my PE teacher,” Allen said, “so I’ve not only had the experience of knowing her in this role as principal, but seeing first-hand that it’s authentic. Her love for students and her passion for health and fitness is real. ... She’s invested a lot in our kids and our community.”

Trotter was one of the first two certified elementary physical education teachers hired in Walker County, and she was named the 2014-15 HEAL Teacher of the Year.

“HEAL Alabama had a great effect on me,” Trotter said of the program that encourages children to eat healthy and stay active. “I had gone to a workshop about three years ago, and they were discussing healthy eating and active living. From that, I said, ‘Our school can do that.’ If we can present them with something that will help them later on in life as far as health goes, I’m for it. ... If we can just influence one child right now, they will go home and they’ll tell their parents. It’s a domino effect. More people will become aware of healthy habits.”

She says it’s an honor to have the track dedicated in her name, but was modest during the praise she received Monday.

“I’m flattered, but I’d just like to think that I’m doing my job, and any way I can help influence a child in a positive manner to become more physically active and pay attention to what they eat is the main thing for me,” Trotter said.

Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey and Jasper City council member Jennifer Smith were also at T.R. Simmons Monday for the grant presentation.

The only other school in the county to receive a Be Healthy School Grant is West Jasper Elementary School.

“Our county has been recognized for many negative things in regard to obesity and our rank in the state,” Allen said. “We know that this isn’t about a political agenda, this isn’t about changing lunchroom food, this is only about helping kids make healthy choices and that’s what we really want to encourage them to do.”