A year ago, taking a brisk walk with students at 7:00 a.m. was not high on Jesuit technology instructor Ed Butler’s to-do list. A morning McDonald’s pick-up and the comfy captain’s chair in the computer lab were much more inviting. After seeing a friend struggle through complications from weight loss surgery though, his health suddenly became a priority. For years, Butler had contemplated a change in diet and exercise, and ultimately, he made a decision to get serious about his weight. "I like to travel," said Butler, "and I got tired of asking for a seat-belt extender on the airplane."
Motivated to get healthy, Butler started walking regularly and watching his calories. Last spring, he came up with the idea for a walking club at Jesuit. "I knew that having the students along with me would be good motivation. It's hard to do it by yourself. When the students see me trying to get in shape it helps motivate them too."
This September the walking club kicked off. Each morning, before class, Butler and any interested students go for a 15-20 minute walk around the school neighborhood. Butler is keeping track of his own miles and those of participating students. Students earn points for each mile they cover and will have the opportunity to cash in those points for prizes. Each mile is measured by a step counter Butler wears on his hip. By the second week of September, students had logged over 93,000 steps (approximately 45 miles). For inspiration, Butler has a map of various destinations around the country and the steps it takes to get to each point. He hopes the group can accumulate over 400,000 footsteps by the end of the year - enough to have walked to St. Louis.
"I like it because I can get points for exercising, and it keeps us busy in the morning," said 6th grader Kyree Ellebb.
Each day, 10-15 walkers take part in the program and many others shared similar sentiments. Jordan Flowers, a regular morning walker, enjoys the exercise and activity the club offers. “It’s nice to be able to get outside and do something active, especially for students who get here early. The prizes are pretty nice too.” the 7th grader said.
While the rewards for students are pencils, notebooks, and other doo-dads, a healthier lifestyle is the biggest reward for Butler. Over the last five months he has shed over 60 pounds. “I’ve got more to go, but having a routine and the students to walk with makes it a lot easier.” He also pointed out the health benefits for students and hopes that more students, and possibly parents, get involved as the year progresses.