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Londonderry students skipping toward a healthier lifestyle

Union Leader Correspondent

March 26. 2013 9:47PM
South School fifth grader Grace Chicko appeared air-born as she skipped rope during her school's "Jump-A-Thon" Tuesday afternoon. The annual event raised funds and awareness for the American Heart Association. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)

South School teacher Alison Yankowskas led fifth graders in a series of warm-up exercises during the school-wide Jump-A-Thon event Tuesday afternoon. APRIL GUILMET

LONDONDERRY - Students at South Elementary School were encouraged to literally "skip" out on class Tuesday - and for good reason.

As part of the school-wide Jumpathon, kids throughout the school gathered in the gymnasium and cafeteria during times usually reserved for physical education, music and art classes. With upbeat '80s and '90s tunes blasting from the speakers, the children bounced along with plastic jump ropes and hula hoops.

The program, an annual tradition at South School, raised funds and awareness for the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for the Heart program.

At South School, skipping rope is a popular pastime - and the school even has its own "celebrity" jump roping team, The Hip-Hoppin' Hawks.

Not everyone can be a Hip-Hoppin' Hawk, but everyone can make exercise part of their regular routine, which is exactly the program's mission, said physical education teacher Scott Lohnes.

Lohnes, who coordinates the annual event with teacher and coach of the Hip-Hoppin' Hawks Jen Cutuli, has been involved in the program since coming to the district five years ago.

He said the project represents a huge collaboration throughout the elementary school.

"We have teachers rearranging schedules for this, students all working together," he said.

In previous years, the school has been able to raise several thousand dollars for the American Heart Association while emphasizing the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, avoiding tobacco and eating heart-healthy foods.

Over the past several weeks, students were sent home with sponsor sheets to collect funds for the American Heart Association, if possible. Some of the kids approached their family members, while others generously reached into their own piggy banks to dig up pennies and dimes.

"But even if they don't raise any money, they're still helping out the cause," said Lohnes. "We tell the kids to give if they can, but if they can't that's OK too. They're still exercising, and they're still sending a positive message of community service."

South School students Arianna Squeglia and Kellie Newman skip rope on Tuesday afternoon as part of the school's annual Jumpathon event. APRIL GUILMET

Elementary Health Londonderry Photo Feature