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Staples Students Tackle Obesity

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States, but five groups of Staples High School students have come up with comprehensive plans to keep the Westport community fit.

As part of the second-annual Staples Spectacular Student Challenge, about 60 students, from sophomores to seniors, voluntarily gathered at the high school on a Sunday in March. In 12 hours, these students, working in 12 teams, came up with multipronged approaches to fighting obesity within the community. On Tuesday night, six semifinal groups presented their campaigns.

"This is an interdisciplinary project in which [students] use all the skills they've learned," said Gertrude Denton, one of the faculty advisers behind the challenge. This project, she said, enables students to further develop their 21st-century skills, which is one of the school's goals.

In keeping Westport healthy and fit, Team 107 — which consisted of Judy Feng, Robert DeLuca, Marcus Russi, Amanda Wildstein and Martha Whamond — proposed the creation of a smart phone application in which residents track what they eat. The application, which they called Fit Count, would allow users to scan items they eat or drink throughout the day using their phone's camera. The program would then add up the calories. Users would also be able to keep track of how many calories they burned during the day.

Team 103, made up of Petey and Michael Menz, Michelle Mastriani, Cole Manley and Jeremy Rubel, proposed removing flavored milks and eliminating unhealthy snacks from the schools and banning transfats in Westport. They also proposed installing more sidewalks to encouraging bicycling.

Dan Haroun, Jacob Epstein, David Katter, Charlotte Smith and Max Gibson — Team 109 — focused on how to make people want to make healthy choices. One idea they presented called for the reduction of fast-food signs. Other ideas included rearranging the school cafeteria so that healthy foods would be more easily accessible and making food stamps an acceptable form of payment at the farmers' market.

Other student participants included David Haswell, Robert Perry, Matt Silver, Eric Essagoff, Connie Zhou, Joshua Greenberg, Justin Kliener, Eric and Todd Lubin, Chen Chen Feng, Tessa Green, Rachel Myers, Caroline Wu and Tim Yang.

Theses student presentations were heard by Superintendent Elliott Landon; Board of Education member Mike McGovern; Marge Cion, director of Human Resources at Westport Public Schools; blogger and Staples Boys Varsity Soccer coach Dan Woog; and Joel Kobak, of the Staples Science Department. A total of $12,500 in scholarship money will be dispersed among the three teams that receive the highest scores. The winners will be announced Friday.

Do you know a student or group of students that deserve recognition? Please tell us about them below!

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