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New GEM program targets fitness in middle school girls

In the fifth grade, 51% of girls in Georgia have healthy aerobic ability. By the 12th grade, the number plummets to 31%.

What’s causing this drop? And what can be done about it?

A group of nonprofits, led by the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, have decided to focus on the issue — and on middle school girls’ fitness.

The foundation has awarded $4.1 million to Norcross-based HealthMPowers to develop a program to improve fitness of these middle-schoolers.

The GEM (Girls Empowering Movement) program – named by girls involved in the effort – is based on identifying obstacles to their fitness and creating solutions. GEM is taking its cues and ideas from girls themselves.

Public Health data show that just 41% of eighth-grade girls in Georgia reach the healthy fitness zone on heart health, compared to 57% of eighth-grade boys. This gap surfaces in middle school, once physical education classes are no longer mandatory. Of the 80,000 middle school students in Georgia who opted out of P.E. classes, 70% were girls.

Georgia ranks toward the bottom of states in offering sports opportunities for girls, says Abby Lutzenkirchen of the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. “This is an area we really need to fix in Georgia.’’

Eventually hundreds of girls will be trained as volunteers to reach middle schools across the state.

Lutzenkirchen says she doesn’t know of a comparable program in other states.

Kennedi Ward, a Henry County eighth-grader, has been selected as one of the program leaders.

She plays basketball, enjoys walking and is generally physically active. Her role model is former first lady Michelle Obama, who launched the Let’s Move! campaign to reduce child obesity and to urge kids to be more physically active.

“I felt as if this is what I needed to do for girls my age and younger than me,’’ says Kennedi, 13.

Under adult supervision, the girl leaders of GEM are training as well as planning for the June 2021 launch of the fitness initiative. “We came up with all the ideas,’’ Kennedi says. “This is us.’’

The next step, she says, “is to really get girls involved.’’

Opportunities and attitudes

GEM began by analyzing barriers to girls becoming physically active.

They include:

♦ Heat, sweat and general discomfort making physical activity uncomfortable.

♦ Girls feeling pressure to look pretty, not sweaty.

♦ Lack of proper exercise gear, and transportation and cost constraints.

♦ Balancing family responsibility and schoolwork, leaving limited time for exercise.

Christi Kay, the program director, says there are “lots of sports opportunities for boys and a lack of relevant opportunities for girls.’’

The goal isn’t necessarily targeting organized sports. In a pilot phase, a group of girls decided they wanted to play a ball game called Four Square to promote fitness.

In recreational sports, kids don’t need to be stellar athletes, says Dr. Ashley Brouillette, a pediatric sports medicine physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. There’s not as much opportunity for such activities as in the past, she adds.

Research has shown physical activity can improve cognitive and mental health, enhance self-esteem, and reduce levels of anxiety, stress and depression.

Besides HealthMPowers, other GEM partners include the Georgia Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia, and the University of West Georgia.

“We know that the absence of daily physical education and daily recess throughout K-12 is a problem for all kids, curtailing physical fitness, and sometimes leading to annoying behaviors and subsequent disciplinary issues,’’ says Polly McKinney of the advocacy group Voices for Georgia’s Children.

“So when you look at girls in particular, who, by the way, are underrepresented in college and professional sports, and miss out on the advantages that come with all of that, it is terrific that the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation and HealthMPowers are creating a program like this, and doing so with the direction of youth.”

Kennedi Ward looks forward to spreading the fitness message among her peers.

“Not a lot of girls know how important’’ it is to stay fit, she says. “They’re missing out a lot.’’ Exercise not only will make girls healthier, she adds, but also will help them “have a better mental state.’’

Rome police seeking 2 in Sam's Club laptop theft

Rome police are looking for two men who reportedly stole three Dell laptops from the Sam’s Club on Redmond Circle.

According to Rome Police Department reports:

The men stole laptops with a combined worth of $1,999.97 on Sunday afternoon. The Sam’s Club manager told police the theft was recorded on security cameras. He believes they left in a silver Ford Explorer.

Report: Teen stole vehicle out of Bartow County

A Woodstock teen was being held for Cartersville police after he was arrested by Floyd County police on theft by receiving stolen property charges.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Joshua Michael Easter, 18, of Woodstock, was seen walking away from the vehicle after it was left at the intersection of Cartersville Highway and Nichols Road. When the owner came to get the vehicle, she stated that she had seen Easter and another man near the vehicle around the time it was taken.

FCPD officers found Easter and the man near the scene, but were unable to apprehend the other man. Both of them have warrants out of Cartersville for theft and driving with a suspended license charges.

Acworth man charged with felony theft

An Acworth man was in jail Monday without bond on a probation violation after he was arrested outside the Berry Food Mart Sunday afternoon on a felony theft by receiving stolen property charge, reports stated.

According to Floyd County Jail report:

Robert Lewis Collum Jr., 42, of Acworth, knew the 2009 Chevrolet he had received was stolen.

Police: Rome woman had 3 packages of meth

A Rome woman charged with felony possession of meth and intent to distribute was release from jail Monday on bond.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Diane Raditz Mcilvaine, 57, was arrested on Avenue A after Rome police found three packages of meth in her possession.

Burglary reported at Pennington Avenue home

Several items were reported missing out of a storage shed on Pennington Avenue after the owner found the the chain lock and door handle broken.

According Rome Police Department reports:

The owner noted there was no other damage done to the building. A backpack blower, weed eater, hedge trimmers, chainsaw and dirt bike were all reported missing, a combined value of $1,850.

Truck hits man, convenience store on Shorter Avenue

Rome police are looking for a driver who reportedly ran into a man and then a building on Shorter Avenue before leaving the scene, reports stated.

According to Rome Police Department reports:

Police are seeking a man believed to have struck a man with his black truck before driving it into Sam’s Food Mart on Shorter Avenue.

The truck didn’t have any tags and the complainant said the man hit him because his ex-girlfriend got him out of jail. The man said he didn’t want to press charges.

Report: Woman put child out of car, tried to bite police

A Rome woman arrested at the intersection of Match Point Way and the Armuchee Connector is accused of driving under the influence of alcohol with children in the car and fighting with police who responded, reports stated.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Anita Latavia Dupree, 24, told the 10-year-old to get out and walk down the highway. Floyd County police officers found the child walking and went to where Dupree and the other child were. She initially resisted arrest and attempted to bite and kick the officers. After she was detained and put in the back of the patrol car, Dupree kicked the cage, cracking it and causing it to bend forward.

Dupree is charged with felony interference with government property, obstruction of a law enforcement officer, misdemeanor DUI, endangering children by DUI, cruelty to children in the third degree and willful obstruction of law enforcement.

She was released on bond Saturday.

Silver Creek man charged with felony marijuana possession

A 20-year-old Silver Creek man was arrested on Rockmart Road after Floyd County police pulled him over for a window tint violation and found marijuana and THC oil in his vehicle, reports stated.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Makaylen Deshaud Sullivan, 20, of Silver Creek, had a firearm in his vehicle, as well as over an ounce of commercially packaged marijuana and a marijuana “blunt.” Officers also found that his driver’s license was suspended.

Sullivan is charged with felony possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, marijuana possession, firearm possession during commission of a crime and intent to distribute drugs.

He’s also charged with misdemeanor possession of drug-related objects, a window tint violation and driving with a suspended license.

He was being held without bond Sunday, and had an outstanding warrant from the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office on unspecified charges.

Rome man facing meth charge

A Rome man was in jail Sunday with a $5,700 bond set after he was arrested at his residence on Cherry Street on a felony methamphetamine possession charge.

According to Floyd County Jail reports:

Jonathan Wayne Haggard, 39, had a small bag of meth in his possession as well as a glass pipe. He’s also facing a misdemeanor charge of possession of a drug related object.

Olivia Morley, staff writer

Perdue, Ossoff trade blows in televised debate

ATLANTA — U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff lobbed the same criticisms at each other Monday that Georgia TV viewers have grown used to from their relentless attack ads.

During an hourlong debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, Perdue labeled Ossoff as a “radical socialist” pushing an agenda that includes de-funding the police and a government takeover of health care.

Ossoff accused Perdue of downplaying the threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic while doing nothing to respond to the demands of millions of peacefully protesting Americans for criminal justice reform.

Perdue, seeking a second six-year term in the Senate after a career as a corporate executive, and Ossoff, an investigative journalist running for statewide office for the first time, have been locked in a dead heat for months, according to numerous polls.

With Democrats needing to capture just three or four seats to take control of the Senate, depending on the outcome of the presidential election, the Perdue-Ossoff contest is one of a handful of Senate races that could sway the outcome.

On Monday, the two took turns charging the other with corruption.

Ossoff accused Perdue of selling special access to campaign donors, including at lavish retreats at his home in coastal Georgia.

“He works for his donors, not ‘We the People,’ ” Ossoff said.

Perdue said Ossoff has received financial backing from the Chinese government and the Communist Party of the USA.

“One of his largest clients is Al Jazeera, a mouthpiece for terrorism,” Perdue said.

While denying those charges, Ossoff countered that Perdue supports a lawsuit filed by the Trump administration seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

At the same time, Ossoff said, Perdue and his Senate Republican colleagues are working to ram through a U.S. Supreme Court nominee who would overturn the ACA and thereby deny Georgians health coverage for pre-existing conditions. Those same Republicans refused to consider then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick in 2016, arguing Congress shouldn’t act on a court nominee during an election year.

“(Perdue) has thrown those so-called principles aside,” Ossoff said.

Perdue said the political landscape has changed since 2016, when the Senate’s Republican majority blocked a Democratic president’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Now, Perdue said, Ossoff wants to join a Senate Democratic caucus that plans to offset the expected confirmation of conservative court nominee Amy Coney Barrett by adding more seats to the court.

“(Ossoff) will be nothing but a rubber stamp when (Senate Minority Leader Chuck) Schumer wants to pack the court,” Perdue said.

Ossoff said he wants to champion criminal-justice reform in the Senate, a demand made during street protests following the deaths of several Black Americans this year at the hands of white police officers. He specifically cited the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, near Brunswick and the subsequent arrest of three white men.

“We have to recognize that racial profiling and police brutality are systemic,” Ossoff said.

Perdue defended the Trump administration’s record on the issue, including congressional passage of criminal justice reform legislation in December 2018.

“The (1994) crime bill was written by (Democratic presidential candidate) Joe Biden, and it locked up more Black men than any law in the last 25 years,” Perdue said.

On COVID-19, Ossoff charged Perdue with echoing President Donald Trump’s response early on in the pandemic.

“You assured us the risk was low,” Ossoff said to Perdue. “You told us this disease was no more deadly than the flu.”

Perdue said both Trump and Congress responded quickly to the economic impact of coronavirus by approving a relief package that brought $47 million to Georgia and created 1½ million jobs.

“We’re doing everything we can to break through the regulations to bring a vaccine quicker,” Perdue said.

Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel criticized the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic, as an overreach of the federal government’s powers under the U.S. Constitution.

Hazel also took Gov. Brian Kemp to task for the statewide stay-at-home order he handed down during the pandemic’s early stages to discourage the spread of the virus.

“Governor Kemp does not have the right to block us from assembling,” Hazel said. “Good ideas don’t require force. … Evaluate the risks on your own and go out and do what you need to do.”