Education and coaching help guide IR senior to top of the class

Indian River High School senior Annmarie Brown has had her hands full, winding up the remaining months of her high school career. From academics and athletics to a variety of extra-curricular activities, she has managed to fight back the infamous “senioritis” that afflicts many soon-to-be-graduates.

Most notably, however, she has dedicated hours to informing Lord Baltimore Elementary School fourth-graders on the importance of health and fitness in a daily routine and devoted time on soccer fields and basketball courts for children with special needs and disabilities. It’s precisely this commitment and fortitude that has helped Brown stand out as a teacher, a coach and a leader.

Later this month, in two different ceremonies, Brown will be honored with awards for her outstanding achievements, including the 2008 Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Award, presented by Delaware Health and Social Services, and the Girl Scout Gold Award.

She has become the first Indian River student to earn recognition for both awards prior to graduation. To obtain the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting, Brown had to complete 70 hours of community service and develop a project to educate others. She initiated a health and fitness program with fourth-graders at L.B. called “Healthy/Active Kids,” in which she designed and executed a program of her own design, to benefit others.

“The whole process began back in November,” she explained. “I researched different topics and developed the curriculum. It really helped to guide me in the direction I wanted to go with this project.”

The entire program continued through the winter and early spring. Sometimes, she brought other high school students to assist in the program for the Lord Baltimore students.

“I taught [the fourth-grade class] the importance of staying active through middle and high school by getting involved with clubs and sports. I also taught them about eating the right foods and developing the healthy habits, like getting the right amount of sleep.”

She assembled surveys and handouts and even helped the children keep track of the foods they eat, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle. Within her project, she advocated the “5-2-1-Almost None” initiative to her students, pulling from a campaign that began last year in Delaware to encourage students to live an active and fit lifestyle.

The program promotes eating at least five servings of fruits or vegetables a day; no more than two hours a day of recreational screen time, be it television, video games or computer time; at least one hour of physical activity; and “almost none,” referring to minimal intake of sugary beverages, such as soda, sports drinks and fruit drinks that are not 100 percent fruit juice. She also stressed the importance of the food pyramid to the children, as well.

Following Brown’s interaction with the fourth-graders, Lord Baltimore Elementary Principal Janet Hickman noticed her perseverance and recommended her for the 2008 Governor’s Youth Volunteer Service Award.

A letter of recommendation from Brown’s anatomy and physiology teacher and former volleyball coach, Corey Ann Raieta, cited plenty other examples of her hard work. She has coached children’s soccer league at River Soccer Club and has been active in the Special Olympics program at Howard T. Ennis Elementary, coaching children in basketball and soccer skills.

An athlete in both sports herself, Brown has exerted a wide knowledge of the sports and has exhibited strong leadership qualities. She also devotes time to the TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), which helps special-needs children excel in the sport.

Her awareness for volunteer work started in ninth grade, when her mother, a special-education teacher, stressed the benefits of being active in the community. Aside from her own obligations with sports and coaching, she’s managed to assist her mother with special education teaching and uphold high marks in her own honors and Advanced Placement classes during her senior year, as well.

“I’ve always been interested in health and fitness,” said Brown.

Her activities and studies ought to serve as a solid platform for her further education. She plans on attending Salisbury University next year, where she wants to study health education or exercise science. Her work has earned her a scholarship, too.

“I’ve really pushed myself through school,” she noted. “Teachers and coaches have really helped a lot, and the project has been a great learning experience.”