Megan Gilroy is excited. “Have fun with it. I want you to just go hog wild,” she exclaims as students at Harper-Archer Middle School in Atlanta follow her direction and taste different fruits and vegetables as they mix them up into salads and fruit cups.
Gilroy is the executive director of the Atlanta-based Fitwit Foundation, an organization that “provides free fitness programs that build strength and develop character for the young people who need it most,” according to the non-profit’s mission statement. She is also an American Graduate Champion.
Lured away from Denver, CO to Atlanta by the foundation, Gilroy seems to inspire the young people at Harper-Archer during what Fitwit calls a nutritious healthy eating day.
Health can still be fun. It doesn’t have to be this drudgery exercise in this terrible thing
“I’m not going to say ‘Don’t waste that. Don’t be wasteful'. I encourage you to experiment,” she tells the students as they willingly oblige her by nibbling on the healthy food and tasting nutritious drinks in the classroom.
“We provide free fitness and character building programs in middle and high schools,” Gilroy explained to PBA during a recent interview.
“We really emphasize the element of fitness being a vehicle to help students build self-efficacy, giving them the confidence to really take risks. Trying things.”
“Health can still be fun. It doesn’t have to be this drudgery exercise in this terrible thing,” she added.
Fitwit focuses on helping at-risk kids at underperforming schools in Atlanta through a yearlong program called Fitwit Club. Students who participate in the program “make personal goals, learn from mentors, collaborate with peers,” according to the non-profits website. They learn personal development skills through fitness and nutrition.
Students at Harper-Archer got a chance to participate in a yoga classes and Gilroy said she gets excited when she sees a change in some of the young people.
“A lot of them really enjoyed the yoga,” she explained. “They thought I want to do this at home. So that was really cool to hear. So many of them enjoy it and say ‘Oh I like this pose and downward dog and tree pose.’ That was really cool to hear.”
But in the end, Fitwit is really about building a better community.”I always tell people I’ve never had a student finish one of our programs and tell me how much weight they’ve lost. I’ve had multiple students come and tell me ‘I feel so much more confident,’ she said.
“That’s success for us and so ultimately it goes into then they’ll finish school and they’re confident to do that. That translates into the better of Atlanta as a city, as a whole, the workforce and everything. So I see it as kind of this whole ripple effect and it’s going to affect all of us.”
And that’s why Megan Gilroy is an American Graduate Champion.
PBA's Atlanta Champions