BU and CSCF join for exercise program

For immediate release: Aug. 11, 2010

BLOOMSBURG – Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania is working closely with the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation (CSCF) on a joint effort to target obesity and at-risk youth through exercise.

Students Overcome and Achieve through Running (SOAR), which began in 2009, is open to students in seventh to 12th grades in the Berwick Area School District. Students are assigned a mentor, a new or experienced runner, and complete training sessions two to three times a week. The culmination of training is the Run for the Diamonds on Thanksgiving in Berwick. SOAR provides sneakers and running clothing for participants, and pays all race entry fees.

Joan Miller, associate professor of nursing at BU, and Wendy Calarco, program director, are responsible for recruitment, event coordination and working with CSFC to ensure the program’s goals are met.

To date, CSCF, a regional philanthropic organization that serves five local counties, has invested $21,800 for the SOAR program from the Berwick Health and Wellness Fund. Each year, the Berwick Health and Wellness Fund invests more than $1 million in health-related projects in Berwick and surrounding communities.

“We are not just a funder, but a partner and organizer for SOAR,” said Kara Seesholtz, CSCF program officer and a 1996 BU alumna. “The foundation is used for meetings, sessions and events, which makes it convenient for those involved.”

Although SOAR is a running program, it also promotes academics and personal goals, Miller said. The program “assesses outcomes through research of participants’ overall well being,” she explained. Assisting in the research is Joseph Andreacci, associate professor of exercise science and athletics, and Mary Katherine Waibel Duncan, associate professor of psychology.

“SOAR is about goal setting and self-esteem,” said Calarco, who earned BU bachelor’s degrees in1989 and 1991 and a master’s in 2007. “Every teenager is at risk for something” and SOAR welcomes any student who wants to join.

Last year 22 SOAR participants ran in the Run for the Diamonds. “I remember seeing a lot of the SOAR kids at the Run for the Diamonds. It was really great to see them complete their goal,” said Seesholtz.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 9,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.