District Seeks Corporate Support for New PHS Fitness Center

Linda Arntzenius

The Princeton Education Foundation has launched a campaign to turn the old 1958 gym at Princeton High School (PHS) into a fitness center that, according to Athletic Director John Miranda, will not only benefit the school's 1300-plus student body but also the district's staff, as well as the local community after school hours.

"We are hoping that the new PHS fitness center will open in September with the equipment needed to teach lifelong fitness, health, stress reduction, and conditioning/injury prevention to our students and student athletes," said Coach Miranda.

The school plans to equip the new center with weight and exercise machines through the efforts of the Princeton Education Foundation, which has launched an initial $100,000 campaign to pay for new equipment, an estimated $65,000, and for the refurbishment of existing machines, an estimated $20,000.

Last week, Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson and Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Grabar toured the old gym along with members of the Princeton Education Foundation, Friends of Princeton Athletics, and Coach Miranda.

Also on the tour was the campaign's Honorary Chair, Lesley Bush, PHS alumna and 1964 Gold Medal winner in diving in Tokyo.

"When I graduated from Princeton High School, there was no facility of this kind, and women weren't getting the exercise training they needed," said Ms. Bush. "This will be a wonderful asset for the community, encouraging lifelong exercise habits."

Mr. Miranda concurred: "Currently athletes are training in the weight room, which will become the new wrestling room after school and be used for yoga and stretching during the school day."

The first step will be to finish construction in the space to turn it into one of the largest fitness centers in the state for student athletes. The district has pledged to repaint the old green tiles in the high school's colors and, Mr. Miranda reported, the plan is to replace the wood floor with rubber and possibly include a running or jogging track.

To plan the center, physical education teachers met with district coaches to assess the right mix of equipment needed for students.

"We are standing on a site of great promise," said Ms. Wilson during the tour. "In six to eight months time, students will be using this space, realizing the district's emphasis on life-long health."

However, given the defeat of the school budget, the district needs the support of corporate sponsors through the Princeton Education Foundation even more, she said.

"The district's health and wellness plan is an integral part of this effort, expanding beyond physical education and athletics in the face of obesity rates and diabetes, into day to day health issues," said Ms. Wilson. "We hope our teens will adopt habits here that will enable them to live long and healthy lives. The state is mandating health and fitness goals so coordination between daily active living and education is a connection that we are being expected to make."

Fitness Center Campaign co-chair Shari Powell and PEF Vice-President Holly Holcomb hope to raise enough money for the September deadline through the initial campaign goal of $100,000. After that, the campaign would strive to raise an additional $50,000.

According to Mr. Miranda, the goal is to have quality equipment set up by September 1. "Ambitious? Yes, but that's our goal," he said.

"This is a win-win situation for the schools and for the community," said Ms. Wilson. "But it won't happen without corporate and community donors."

Donors to PEF's Fitness Center Campaign will receive recognition with a written acknowledgement and an announcement in the semiannual PEF newsletter for $500, and a plaque inside the entrance to the fitness center for more than $500.

Staffed entirely by volunteers, the Princeton Education Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization, formed in 1995 to enhance the educational experience of all Princeton public school children by bringing private funding into the Princeton Regional School District in collaboration with the district's administration in direct support of the district's instructional programs.

For more information, call (609) 806-4214; e-mail info@pefnj.org; or contact co-chair Jeanine Barsamian at jhbarsam@aol.com. A donation form may be downloaded from the PEF web site: www.pefnj.org.

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