At All Tribes American Indian Charter School in Valley Center, Calif., local youth participate in open gym time where they can take part in a variety of sports activities. One of the teachers noticed that the only girl in the group was not participating in the activities at all. Angelina Renteria, Public Health Programs Director with the Indian Health Council, took the opportunity to sit and talk with Su’la, the student, to understand why she didn’t want to join the other kids. Su’la explained that she didn’t want to be inactive, she just didn’t want to participate in what was provided because she didn’t feel like she fit in with the boys. At that point, Angelina says, “Thanks to Su’la’s willingness to share, we realized it was a perfect opportunity to fund a variety of diverse activities for students that don’t necessarily fit within one type of activity. To help youth “find what fits,” we created a program called ‘F.I.T.S.’ (Fitness in Tribal Schools).”
Through the inspiration of the youth, Indian Health Council pursued and received support from the N7 Fund to create a summer camp as well as yearlong in-school program for the All Tribes American Indian Charter School. This past July, they kicked off the F.I.T.S. program by hosting a summer camp with a variety of activities for the youth. “Many of the children would have been at home with little to do as there are limited resources here on the reservations. During the severe heat of the summer, you don’t see many kids outside playing,” said Renteria. “Thanks to the camp and the generous support from the N7 Fund, local youth from the Pala and Rincon Indian Reservations had an outlet and something fun to do this summer.”
During the school year the FITS program fills the gaps at the school by providing four days a week of a variety of physical activities and nutrition guidance for the K-12th graders at the school. According to Michelle Parada, the All Tribes Charter School principal, “By providing a variety of fun activities, exercise and nutrition education options to our students, the F.I.T.S. curriculum has elevated our P.E. program to a new level. Taking what they have learned from the F.I.T.S. activities, we are hopeful that our students will develop into physically active and healthy young adults.”
With school back in session Su’la, who once sat on the sidelines has now committed to supporting her teacher and classmates, by helping and inspiring other girls to find physical activities that fit for them.