LA Clippers inspire fitness in South LA youth

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imageFor more than 200 students at the Foshay Learning Center, Tuesday wasn’t just any day. These local Kindergarten through 12th graders are participating in the FIT program. It’s a pep rally and fitness program led by the LA Clippers Foundation, who partnered with the California Endowment.

Joe Safety is Vice President of Communication for the Clippers. He says the motivation to be physically fit must come from within the students, but the goal of the FIT program is to be the flame that ignites the fire.

“They’re leading this kind of effort with kids this age makes for to healthier adults,” said Safety.

Through fun games, competitions, and free giveaways, the foundation is encouraging healthy lifestyles. Promoting students’ health is also at the cornerstone of Foshay’s educational plan, explains the school principal Yvonne Edwards.

She has spearheaded efforts to change what is served in the school’s lunchroom.

“I’m like, wow, is this the same place? Where’s the pizza?”

Instead of the soda and fried foods of past years, the students now choose from healthier meals like sushi, chicken, and fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition to healthy eating, Foshay also has a strong Physical Education department which requires all students to pass a fitness test before graduation, a feat that’s difficult from some students to achieve. That’s why Edwards is glad someone like former Clippers player Sean Rooks is here to inspire them. “It’s about waking up in the morning and choosing fruits and juices as opposed to donuts and cokes.”

And according to some students, it’s working. Take it from Kayla, a 6th grader who loves to dance. “I like how everybody feels like they should get active.”

As she gazes in awe at the Clippers dancers performing just a few feet away, Kayla explains with eyes wide open and a smile beaming from ear to ear. “When I grow up I want to be a choreographer.”

The kids traveled around from station to station, participating in activities ranging from a basketball shoot out to dance clinics. It was clear by the smiles on their faces that the event was a success.

“We’re having so much fun!”

Clippers staff members will keep a close eye on their target schools in the coming months. They will encourage the students to log fitness minutes and reward a prize to the school who logs the highest number.

Los Angeles Prepares for Great Shakeout Earthquake Drill

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imageAt 10:20 a.m. on Thursday morning, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will drop down to the floor of his office. On all fours, he will feel the ground shaking as he clasps his hands over his head. He will watch in horror as the photos hanging on the wall crash to the ground. He’ll panic as the building sways back and forth, not knowing if he will be able to get out in time.

Two minutes later, the ground will finally stop shaking, and the mayor will proceed to carry out earthquake emergency procedures, checking for anyone in the office with injuries and accessing their emergency supply kit.

There’s just one thing – it’s all make-believe.

Today, the mayor urged Los Angeles to take part in the Great California ShakeOut. He asked everyone to simulate an earthquake in an effort to learn, plan, and practice preparedness.

“Rarely do we take the time to face the reality of the greatest natural disaster our region will face in a lifetime,” he said.

The mayor, along with 8 million other Californians, will participate in Thursday’s drill, making it the largest earthquake drill in world history.

It may seem like a dramatic production, but the mayor said he strongly believes that the simulation is important.

“It’s not a question of if an earthquake will happen, but rather when an earthquake will happen,” he said. “A large earthquake is one of the largest looming threats over Southern California.”

The city is asking people to create an emergency disaster plan with their families, build an emergency supply kit, and practice what they will do when an earthquake strikes.

First responders will be coordinating their own emergency response plan.

Earthquake specialist Dr. Lucy Jones believes this teamwork is an essential part of the drill’s goal.

“We’re all in this together, and the more that each one of us individually is ready for the earthquake, the better off our overall community will be,” she said. “The earthquake really is inevitable, but the disaster is not.”

Dr. Jones and the mayor encourage everyone to take part this Thursday, October 20, at 10:20 a.m.

Housing the homeless in Watts

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imageDana Knoll began her day around four a.m. She, and three other volunteers, walked from corner to corner around Watts surveying and interviewing over 165 people living on the streets.

Knoll is working on behalf of 100 Thousand Homes, a national movement to find and house the most vulnerable of America’s homeless.

She is learning about who they are and why they are there. She has candid conversations, gathering information that will position the homeless on a vulnerability index.

The vulnerability index is a tool organizers use to learn about the health conditions of people on the streets.

“If people don’t get off the street, their mortality would be impacted, and so, based on whether they have a chronic condition or a co-occurring disorder–meaning they have substance abuse and or mental health issues–or they’ve been on the street for longer than x number of years, they would then be considered folks, and if they’re willing, and want to get housing, we would try to help get them housed.”

On Friday, 100 thousand homes will identify five to fifteen homeless people in watts who are eligible and willing to receive help. Housing providers in watts will then offer them services that will place them in their new homes.

For the most part, the people Knoll has identified have been receptive to her efforts.

“Sometimes they’re not as forthcoming, but once you start talking to them they open up a little more.”

Among the other criteria, volunteers are also looking to identify people who qualify for government subsidies but may not know it. The problem is, in order to administer a subsidy, candidates must first be identified.

That’s where this campaign comes in, according to Jake Maguire, a representative from 100 Thousand Homes.

“We as a society have made a broad commitment to certain groups of people, like veterans, seniors, people with aids…that we don’t want those people to be experiencing homelessness. It’s important to us as a nation that those people be inside.”

So far, 100 Thousand Homes has housed just shy of eleven thousand people nationwide. Maguire says they are on track to reach 100 thousand by July of 2013. Watts is not alone. Over 100 communities have joined the movement and the number is expected to keep growing.