Obesity challenge grants $4,000 to high school freshmen

Jenesis Maldonado said she was elated when her team of six ASU Preparatory Academy freshman won $4,000 for its solution in the Obesity Solutions Funding Challenge.

“We were very nervous, and we practiced over and over again," Maldonado said. "It really paid off because we did great. I feel like I achieved something."

The group plans on applying their funds to open a snack bar with healthy food options and to add healthier meals to the school’s cooking classes.

The competition was open to ASU students, faculty, staff, graduates and alumni. There were 48 contestants that have applied, since it began on Feb. 1.

Academy capstone teacher Irene Hsiao said her students were able to enter because she was a former ASU graduate and because the school is affiliated with ASU.

“It wasn’t a competition for high school students, so this was really unexpected for us to go this far and actually win $4,000,” Hsiao said.

The students named themselves the Newtrition group and were selected as one of the nine finalists. The group divided its tasks and assigned each member a different role.

The members were President Maria Guevara, Vice President Cheyenne Tasher, Jenesis Maldonado as secretary, Technical Assistant Pedro Duenas, Science and Technology Administrator Rebekah Santa Cruz and Internal Affairs Coordinator Steven Mercado.

The group name was originally a misspelling by one of the group members, but the error was kept and purposely used to form a slogan. The group’s slogan is “New-Trition: A New Look on Nutrition.”

As a top contender, the Newtrition Group had to present its idea in front of an ASU panel of judges.

The idea to fight obesity was a concept that the group members identified as a problem in their school population. It is a four-year project assigned from their Capstone Experience class that aims to teach students how to identify and solve social problems in their population.

Members of the Newtrition Group said they have learned several aspects of teamwork, including overcoming differences and learning individuals’ strengths, weaknesses and gaining public speaking skills.

Tasher said her team plans on cooking healthier versions of pizza, chicken nuggets and food students normally like to eat. She said the classes would show her peers how to make homemade versions of popular food.

“Even though the food might not be completely 100 percent healthy, it will definitely be healthier than fast food places,” Tasher said.

The students plan on opening their snack bar in fall 2013.

The group said they plan on selling healthier food options at the snack bar, including fruits and vegetables, and using the profit gained to continue providing healthy alternatives.

Guevara said the group came up with the idea of providing healthier food to fight obesity and because of the group’s dislike of the school’s cafeteria food options.

“We wanted to expose students to other foods, healthy foods," Guevara said. "We’re giving them the opportunity to make better decisions on what they eat compared to the cafeteria food."


Reach the reporter at jcsolis@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @jackiecsolis


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