Faces of Success: Jahnae Hardnett
We all know that it’s important to exercise daily, but many of us have a difficult time fitting it into our busy schedules. Others really don’t even enjoy daily physical activity. Jahnae Hardnett used to fall into this category.
“When I first joined the SPARK™ after-school program, I didn’t like to exercise,” said Hardnett. “I love it now!”
Hardnett’s not alone. More than 400 Nashville children now love exercise, thanks to United Way’s SPARK™ (Sport-Play-Active-Recreation-for-Kids) after-school program funded by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation. The SPARK™ after-school program was first introduced in 2015 with a goal of improving the health of children in this community through structured physical activity and nutrition. According to The Tennessee Department of Education, 35 percent of Davidson County school-aged youth are overweight or obese. SPARK™ addresses these health issues. The program utilizes trained internal staff members to lead students in structured physical activity to help reach a goal of 60 minutes daily. It’s inspired Hardnett’s entire family to get moving.
“My mother has a gym membership now, and my brother has also started exercising,” she said. “I don’t know what we would do without SPARK™.”
Program participants and their families also receive healthy meals or snacks through a United Way partnership with The Nashville Food Project. This all-encompassing program provides tremendous support for Hardnett’s mother, Monique Dotson who works to support her family.
“I know she’s in a safe and supervised environment at The Salvation Army Family Resource Center,” said Dotson. “She’ll get her exercise and also eat healthy food.”
SPARK™ has also provided the 10-year-old Hardnett with an opportunity to exercise and strengthen her mind.
“I used to double-check her homework all the time and find mistakes,” said Dotson. “Now I breeze right through, and it’s always correct. The program staff assists her in all aspects of her life. When it’s time to go home every day, she doesn’t want to leave.”
Hardnett won’t have to leave the SPARK™ after-school program anytime soon. She’s eligible to participate for four more years. It’s open to children and adolescents ages 5-14 and is currently offered at four United Way Family Resource Centers. Nashville families are now receiving the SPARK™ program’s message loud and clear. A healthier body, mind and spirit are now possible for many Nashville children and their families — including Hardnett — thanks to SPARK™.