Janine Corning has a ferocity about her. Ask her fellow colleagues at Camillus Middle School and they will use words like “spitfire” and “great” when describing the physical education teacher of 10 years.
So it came as no surprise that her efforts reaped dividends when the West Genesee School District was awarded a $508,173 federal grant to improve its nutrition and physical education programs.
The school district was among 10 school districts in New York state— and the only district in Central New York— to receive a Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
“For me personally,” Corning said about not giving up, “I come from a family of workaholics, very hard working parents. [My family] have all been successful and constantly striving to do great things.”
The process, no doubt, tested Corning’s patience, but it was her perseverance that trumped the odds after a long-standing, seven-year wait. Corning and other physical education teachers found out about the federal grant by attending conferences as members of the State Physical Education Association.
“[At the time] it was initially a $70 million grant,” Corning said. “We were like, ‘What is this?’ ‘We got to get in on it!”
Due to budget cuts, the grant has been cut in half to nearly $30 million.
While many members at the conference brushed off the opportunity to improve its school district’s physical education department, Corning and company jumped at the opportunity.
“It was a total physical education department, district and community initiative,” Corning said. “It did take a lot of support and we got that support to get this accomplished.”
Corning describes applying for a grant of that magnitude as time consuming. Since it was a physical education grant, you’re using the data that you have with your students in terms of fitness testing, equipment, facilities that you have to offer – you’re analyzing that. A curriculum review is also in order, according to Corning.
The grant money will help the school district’s physical education department buy new weight room equipment for the high school and two middle schools. The equipment includes treadmills, spin bikes, dumb bells, elastic bands, stability and medicine balls, weight benches and pull up bars.
The district will also be able to purchase applications for electronic devices to track mileage, calculate body mass index and to track students’ diets. Students will be able to design individual fitness profiles using heart rate monitors and pedometers.
“This grant provides is more opportunities for the students in terms of using equipment that ties into our curriculum that we would normally not be able to purchase in a good budget year,” Corning said. “We are going to do some latest and greatest that most don’t have the chance to do based on budgets”.
Corning found out about the grant through email around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon through the respective grant writing company. The official announcement gave way the following Friday.
“It was neat because I was here [at school]” Corning said. “I was running through the halls doing heel clicks.”
“It really shows in our community,” superintendent Christopher R. Brown said in regards to the acts of Corning and the people coming together to save modified sports, “that no matter what challenges we face, we find a way to overcome them and we always have.”
Brown described Corning as selfless, someone who is truly looking out for the needs and opportunities of everyone.
Grant recipients must help implement programs that help students make progress toward meeting state standards for physical education. They must offer instruction in healthy eating habits and good nutrition, and physical fitness activities that include at least one of the following:
• Fitness education and assessment to help students understand, improve or maintain their physical well-being;
• Instruction in a variety of motor skills and physical activities designed to enhance the physical, mental and social or emotional development of every student;
• Development of and instruction in cognitive concepts about motor skills and physical fitness that support a lifelong healthy lifestyle;
• Opportunities to develop positive social and cooperative skills through physical activity participation
• Opportunities for professional development for physical education teachers to stay abreast of the latest research, issues and trends in the field of physical education.
Christina Alexander is the editor of the Eagle Observer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.