W&L students partner with local elementary school for healthy year

New campus group “Happy Kids, Healthy Kids” hopes to make wellness fun at Lexington’s Central Elementary School

Kara Lough

A W&L student’s interest in her childhood obesity research has

inspired an entirely new campus outreach initiative for the 2017-2018 school year.

Hannah Archer, ’20, started a chapter of Happy Kids, Healthy Kids this semester on Washington and Lee’s campus. Happy Kids, Healthy Kids is a national, non-profit organization that addresses childhood obesity in low-income areas. The organization already has chapters at five other universities, including Duke University and Boston University.

As the U.S. faces a childhood obesity epidemic, Happy Kids, Healthy Kids seeks to be an active part in helping to stop this issue. Each chapter accomplishes this with an after-school program run by volunteers at local elementary schools. The organization’s motto is, “We hope to defeat childhood obesity in America, one school at a time.”

The program is built to target K-5 kids. One of its goals involves providing health education for these children, whose schools often lack the funding and resources to do so themselves. The other primary goal is to get the kids involved in an exercise session where they can experience fun physical activity.

As the founding member, Archer will serve as president of the chapter. Archer says she is very passionate about the issue of childhood obesity, especially since it is preventable, to an extent. She hopes to educate the children and their parents on the importance of healthy eating and an overall healthy lifestyle.

Another of Archer’s reasons for pursuing the club was the research she began the winter semester of her freshman year with W&L biology professor Helen I’Anson. Their research focuses on the effects of snacking on childhood obesity using one of the Fat Rat labs at W&L, in which rats receive various diets to test their weight in correlation with snacking. The results so far have showed that snacking, whether healthy or unhealthy, causes a significant amount of weight gain when compared to not snacking.

Eight other individuals also serve with Archer on the executive board of W&L’s chapter of Happy Kids, Healthy Kids. At the Orientation Week Academic Fair, over 100 volunteers signed up to help with the program, but Archer said she would love for more W&L students to contact her if they are interested in getting involved.

The chapter is currently collaborating with Lexington’s Central Elementary School, which has a little over 500 students. But in the coming months, Archer and the rest of the executive board hope to expand to other elementary and middle schools in the Rockbridge


“I’m excited to be involved in the Rockbridge community and be able to serve outside of campus,” said Caroline Trammell, ‘20, Co-Vice President of the chapter.

Volunteers go to Central Elementary every Thursday for an hour

and a half following the end of the children’s school day. The program starts off with an hour-long nutrition session where the kids are broken into small groups to allow for one-on-one interaction. Then the volunteers play games with the children to help them ‘get active’ for the remaining half-hour.

“The goal of this club is not to create a drastic change,” Archer said. “It’s to help kids improve their health, little by little. Even if this means being active for just 20 minutes a day or choosing to drink milk over soda. Every small thing counts.”