Local Bridgeport Students Visit SHU's Athletic Fields to Complete State Physical Fitness Testing

Dr. Valerie Wherley and her Exercise Science students address Bridgeport children who are working towards their state-mandated Connecticut Physical Fitness Test.

News Story: November 9, 2012

On Monday, October 22, Sacred Heart University hosted 240 local grade-school students at its track and field facilities at the William H. Pitt Center. The students used the track, along with advice and encouragement from SHU athletes, to complete part of their state-mandated Connecticut Physical Fitness Test.

The field trip was organized by Dr. Valerie Wherley, clinical assistant professor and undergrad clinical coordinator of Sacred Heart’s Exercise Science program, in conjunction with Tracy Williams, physical education teacher at Bridgeports’s Madison Elementary School. All third- through sixth-graders from the school attended the event, which was designed to give them a state-of-the art facility for completing the mile-run requirement for Connecticut’s health and fitness survey.

“I was at Madison last year when the kids were doing their fitness testing,” Wherley says. “They don’t have a proper track at the school, so to complete their mile, the kids were running eight times around building. It was really unsafe — it was very crowded condition, they had to run up on the sidewalk and kids were bumping into each other. I knew we had this great facility at Sacred Heart, so invited Tracy and the kids over for this year.”

The youngsters were assisted by members of Wherley’s Pediatric Exercise Science course, who were able to use the experience toward 20 hours of Service Learning required for the semester. The SHU students helped with timing the run, encouraging the participants, modeling proper running technique and talking about the importance of physical activity.

“It was a good exposure for the Bridgeport kids, because for some it was their first time ever stepping foot on a college campus,” Wherley says. “They got to see a little of what being a college student and a college athlete is about.”

After the testing was completed, the children were allowed onto the turf football field, where they interacted with members of the SHU football, soccer and track teams, conversing, engaging in sprint races and competing in push-up contests.

“I think they had a lot of fun with that too, because they wanted to race with college kids,” says Erin O’Shea, a senior exercise science major who assists in coaching the cross-country team at Bridgeport’s Florence E. Blackham Elementary School. “The kids kept saying things to us like, ‘Oh, we can beat you, you guys are going down!’ It was very funny. It was a great experience for everyone.”

Wherley hopes to see the collaboration between SHU and Madison continue in the coming years. “Sacred Heart is perfectly situated next to Bridgeport,” she says. “Bridgeport is this wonderful city, but it’s also a city that can use some assistance from the local neighborhood, and we happen to be part of that neighborhood. A big piece of Sacred Heart’s mission is to help the surrounding communities, and we couldn’t be happier to contribute in this way.”

To watch video from the event, click here.