A World Fit for Kids: Los Angeles, CA

300,000 Lives Changed With Many More In Need

“Physical education had been eliminated at the elementary level…which is criminal!  Kids definitely need physical education.” These are the words of Normandie Nigh, who is the leader of an organization making a huge difference in the Los Angeles community. 

A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT) has worked since 1993 to make an impact on the lives of over 300,000 low-income youth.  Plus, more than 10,000 school teachers have been trained by WFIT on how to incorporate more physical education into their classrooms. 

WFIT provides both in-school and after-school daily programs for kids in grades K-12.  The organization is focused on helping kids with their physical, emotional, and mental wellness by cementing physical activity as a regular aspect of their lives.

In addition, WFIT has a strong mentorship program called Mentors in Motion (MiM) that provides leadership development, professional experience, and internship opportunities to teenagers.  Normandie explained how she was, “just blown away by the power of the older kids teaching the younger kids.”

WFIT has a unique spokesperson with a near legendary ability to promote the organization.  Hercules himself, actor Kevin Sorbo has been the celebrity spokesperson for WFIT ever since 1997.  “I was watching the TV show and I liked the message,” Normandie explained.  Knowing that WFIT needed a spokesperson, she went about getting in contact with Sorbo.  She was thrilled to learn that he was very interested in becoming an active part of the effort and has been a strong advocate for them ever since.

Still, the true magic of this organization takes place each day in the classroom.  During the WFIT sessions, leaders encourage the kids to pay attention to their bodies and notice how they feel when they are staying physically active and eating fresh foods. 

Classroom teachers also benefit from this instruction.  “They need the experience of how much more energized and how better they feel when they exercise and they’re moving more.”  Teachers learn about energy breaks and how they can integrate movement into their instruction during the day.  “It’s a game changer!” Normandie exclaimed.  “We would like to be able to train more adults so they are healthier and so they can be better mentors for those who are young.”

WFIT experiences their own fair share of challenges in operating their programs.  “I think the biggest challenge for any non-profit is constantly bringing in the money they need to keep the doors open,” Normandie chuckled.

Plus, many of the kids in this community are at poverty level.  The large majority of the population qualifies for free or reduced lunches at school.  This means kids may learn how to make healthy recipes with fresh ingredients at the WFIT classes, but are unable to reproduce these meals at home without access to grocery stores or money to pay for expensive ingredients.

Kids in these neighborhoods suffer from a lack of safe place space in their communities.  This means that kids are less able to play on their own and discover their own personal passions without the help of after school programs like those provided by WFIT.

“A good after-school program costs $17 to $18 per kid per day,” Normandie explained.  The rate for the state of California has been around $7.50 per student since 2006.  This means that your political support can make a real difference. 

One person trying to make a difference through politics is a WFIT graduate named Gilberto.  Gilberto came in as a 1st-grader and proceeded through the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  As a teen, he became a mentor and eventually a teen board member.  He went on to earn a college scholarship and create a successful IT career.  Today, he still works towards WFIT’s goals and has helped the organization reach out to key senators.  “He’s our poster child.  He’s an amazing guy,” Normandie gushed.

Other former students, now adults, often stop by the WFIT offices to introduce their own kids who are starting in the elementary programs.  “I’ve been doing it for 23 years now, which has been so wonderful,” said Normandie.  She loves that she is able to make a difference in the lives of kids in the inner city communities.

When asked what WFIT needs, Normandie explained that political support was very important.  “I think a lot of parents don’t understand that these programs cost a lot of money, but they’re free {for students}.  They don’t understand that it’s based off the legislators and governor. We need folks to raise their voices about how important after-school programs are, not only in California, but around the country.  We need awareness that these programs are critically important to the community, working families, and for the kids.”

They have other challenges as well.  “The hardest thing for us is to get unrestricted funding so we can continue to buy the healthy foods.  We give our team members over 30 hours of training each school year which is almost unheard of for after-school programs.  We want all of our coach mentors to be able to teach the Nourishing Matters programs.  We want our entire team walking the talk.”

If you share the ideals of WFIT, a final way you can help is to volunteer as a sponsor.  WFIT is hoping to find additional healthy sponsors. To learn more, see the contact information below.

A World Fit for Kids

Los Angeles, CA