"The middle school has often been like the middle child of a family," Jake Swartwood, Dean of Students/Athletic Coordinator at Rim Country Middle School (RCMS), describes our local campus with a well-crafted piece of figurative language.
"They regularly get the hand-me-downs from the high school, and this equipment is not a great fit."
Sarah Hubbard, a mother of two children that have attended our local schools, chortles along: "When my son was playing basketball (at RCMS several years ago), the team had to hold up their pants while running down the court... and that just doesn't work."
Middle school is that awkward age; some have hit their growth spurt, and some have not. There are kids of all sizes, but few are of a high-school size. “Our middle school needed its own equipment to fit their needs and make them feel important and prioritized,” Swartwood continued.
What started as an idea to help feed the high school with a healthier, stronger first-year class to excel in athletics has morphed into creating a facility that will affect nearly 80% of the entire middle school population each year. The newly created Advanced PE course was the first step of this plan, and it was the inaugural year for such a class. It is by application only and emphasizes that an athlete must be respectful at all times even to be considered for this class. The school had so many qualified applicants that two sections will be offered next year.
The center would greatly benefit such advanced classes, and when the high school handed down some exercise bikes and row machines, further middle-child evidence, those were the first pieces of equipment that started the movement. Dr. Kristin Wade, owner of Payson Premier Dental, caught wind of this and wanted to come alongside the project to help make it materialize.
The school had a little seed money to put toward this effort, and with a generous donation from Payson Premier Dental, it gained traction. Oh, and that mother of two from above, Sarah Hubbard, she's the marketing director for this dental practice, elaborated on why they wanted to be involved with this cause: "The fitness center... the opportunities and positive experiences it can provide are endless to our youth."
With a substantial amount of money, the school still came up short due to the rising materials costs. Also, one must be mindful that it takes specialized tools for these adolescents' developing bodies. Swartwood assures, "It needs to be a lot of muscle growth through movement for these younger kids, and this will have to be done through light weight lifting with top-of-the-line safety equipment, plyometric boxes, resistance bands, medicine balls, and more."
With the right equipment for their life stage, most of the students will have the opportunity to benefit from better health and prepare their bodies to participate in sports if they so choose. In community fashion, Payson Premier Dental accepted the challenge and brought in MHA Foundation, Mogollon Sporting Association, and Payson Golf Club to come together to make up the costs to fund the center fully.
Countless amounts of research show that when people are engaged in things bigger than themselves that it improves the individual's work. Therefore, getting involved in any school-related activity is vital for our students. If one doesn't have the right equipment, how does one do the right job? If you are doing the right job, most know success creates success... especially at this age.
Our community is all about joining together to support our youth. We cherish the opportunity to work together with a variety of different organizations to help cultivate the best next generation possible.