Family 5K in Riverside Park Aims to Boost City's Phys Ed Programs

By Emily Frost on August 16, 2013 12:15pm 

UPPER WEST SIDE — A group that advocates for more physical education classes in the city's public schools is holding a family 5K fundraiser in Riverside Park this Saturday to encourage more healthy habits for students.

The race, which starts at 10 a.m. at West 103rd Street and Riverside Drive, is organized by the volunteer-run nonprofit Phys Ed Plus (PEP), which works with individual school to provide additional gym classes.

Brian Semonian, a coach and physical education teacher, founded the group two years ago to help get students active in public schools. The organization works with seven schools in Harlem to plan classes and programs including "dance, pilates, yoga, nutritional instruction and other custom activities built to complement classroom curriculum," PEP said on its website. 

The organization hopes Saturday's run, sponsored by the American Heart Association, will help raise enough money to expand the program into Brooklyn, where PEP could help schools serving low-income students hire gym teachers and fit in more physical education classes.

"Those are formative years when habits are formed," Semonian said of the importance of learning to stay active at a young age.

Semonian said he was shocked by how little physical activity some city kids are getting in school, citing a 2011 study by Comptroller John Liu that found that just 6 percent of elementary schools met the state's requirement of a minimum of two hours per week of physical education.

In addition to planning classes, PEP also works with school administrators to help them hire more gym teachers, even if they're only part-time and shared with another school.

"Our goal is to raise the awareness that every school in New York City needs a PE teacher," said Chris Zumbrennen, a member of organization's board of directors.

Saturdays' run, which costs $30 and is free for kids under 12 who attend with adults, is the organization's first big fundraiser, Zumbrennen said.

As of Thursday, PEP had raised $9,200 and had 100 people sign up for the race. There's still room for 300 more participants, he said.

Click here for more information about Saturday's race.

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