The Announcement of Healthy Church Challenge Winners

The Healthy Church Challenge 100-day weight loss competition was an idea that manifested 100 days later in the form of smiling faces on Sunday, June 17. The challenge put regional churches in a weight loss competition. The team with the largest percentage of weight lost won prizes to purchase exercise equipment for its congregation.

The winners were announced at the 19th Annual Juneteenth Freedom & Heritage Festival in historic Douglass Park by a representative from BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, sponsor of the Healthy Church Challenge.  

Barbara Jackson was shocked and ecstatic after she was called to the stage to receive a first-place $500 gift certificate for losing the most weight during the Healthy Church Challenge 100-day weight loss competition.

Jackson, a member of One Way Church of God in Christ, lost 32.2 pounds, followed by second place winner Anita Banks of St. Andrew A.M.E. Church, who lost 29 pounds. Marcus Maxwell Ross, a member of Mt. Sinai M.B. Church, lost a total of 27.6 pounds. (All participants who attended each monthly weigh-in received an additional 2 lb. credit at the final weigh-in on June 9.)

“Winning was a milestone for me. I knew I wasn’t in this Challenge by myself,” said Jackson, still feeling euphoric several days later. “It was competitive, but I was wholeheartedly committed, committed to the endeavor like everybody else in the competition.”

Brenda Thornton said she’s still “pumped” after learning that her church, Fullview M.B. Church in Bartlett, Tenn., won first place, which included a $5,000 gift certificate to the Sports Authority and nutritional counseling from Baptist Memorial Health Care. She also said she was “shocked, excited, overwhelmed and happy for the whole group.”

“Winning is a good motivator,” said Thornton, who stayed the course until the competition ended. “I had told a church member that this was a 100-day run, but it’s going to be a lifetime run for me.”     

The second place winner, The Healing Cathedral Christian Church, received a $2,500 gift certificate to the Sports Authority as well, followed by third-place winner St. Andrew A.M.E. Church, which received a $1,500 gift certificate.    

Hundreds of Mid-Southerners from 36 churches participated in the weight loss competition and many of them participated in The Obesity Summit as well at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, which preceded the Healthy Church Challenge announcement of winners.

Internationally renowned fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner keynoted the Summit along with Rosalind Kurita, policy advisor to the Tennessee Department of Health. More than 275 people interested in losing weight and preventing the onset of obesity listened intently as Joyner and Kurita encouraged participants to eat healthy and exercise. Joyner followed her talk with a five minute light workout with participants as they stood at their table.

The Healthy Church Challenge was sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, along with Baptist Memorial Health Care, News Channel 3, Hallelujah 95.7 FM, Tri-State Defender, and the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival.

For updates and photos of The Obesity Summit and winners of the Healthy Church Challenge, visit Healthy Church Challenge.

Aspire Public Schools Approved to Serve Memphis Students

First Expansion Outside of California for the State’s Highest-Performing Large, High-Poverty Public School System

Today, Aspire Public Schools was approved by Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) to open and operate charter schools in Memphis beginning in August 2013, marking the first time California’s largest charter management organization is expanding outside the state. Currently, Aspire is one of the largest charter organizations in the nation and the highest-performing large public school system serving low-income students in California. Aspire presently operates 34 schools in six cities, serving 12,000 students

“We’re humbled by the confidence that the Achievement School District has placed in our organization.  We look forward to earning the trust of the community and partnering with families to prepare their students for college success,” said Aspire’s Chief Executive Officer James Willcox. “At Aspire, we understand that there is no greater responsibility or honor than to partner with families to help achieve their dreams for their students. We are committed to making sure that our schools meet the unique needs of Memphis students and their families and look forward to all that we can accomplish together.”

Aspire is expanding in order to serve more students with a high-quality, public education as Memphis is home to 80 percent of the lowest-performing 85 schools in TN. Like Memphis City Schools, Aspire is focused on its own Teacher Effectiveness Initiative and has partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to design and implement innovative teacher effectiveness strategies with the goal of ensuring that each student has access to a highly effective teacher and teachers are supported to reach their full potential as educators.

Recent research from Mathematica Policy Research and the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington Bothell found that Aspire accelerates student achievement faster than comparable schools and that Aspire is among the top-performing charter organizations in the country. For the last three years, 100 percent of graduating Aspire seniors wereaccepted to four year colleges or universities.

“We are thrilled that Aspire is joining parents, advocates, education organizations and local elected officials that are collectively working to ensure that all of our students have access to a high-quality public education,” said Kenya Bradshaw, Tennessee’s executive director of Stand For Children. “With nationally-recognized, proven school operators coming to Tennessee, our state will become a model for what is possible for all public schools for years to come.”

This year, in what is believed to be the first time in the country for any charter management organization, Aspire will graduate students who have attended its schools for the entirety of their K-12 education. Eight students who enrolled in Aspire’sfirst school, Aspire University Public School (now Aspire Vincent Shalvey Academy), located in Stockton, CA, as Kindergartners in 1998, will graduate from Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy (alsolocatedin Stockton)on June 8, 2012.

“Congratulations to Aspire and the families of Memphis on Aspire’s charter approval,” said Todd Ziebarth, vice president of state advocacy and support for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “As the charter movement marks its 20th anniversary this year, it is of special significance that Aspire, the country’s first-ever charter organization and the first to graduate students who attended their schools from Kindergarten to 12th grade, is expanding outside of California for the first time.”

Aspire has been previously recognized by the United States Department of Education and the well-regarded management consulting firm McKinsey & Company for its high-quality schools and unique academic approach. The United States Department of Education recently awarded a $3 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant to Aspire in order to further develop technology systems to support teachers. This follows Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s announcement of a $6 million grant to Aspire to expand their high-performing network of public charter schools. In 2010, Aspire was named one of the world’s 20 most improved school systems by McKinsey & Company and was just one of three school systems in the United States to earn this recognition.

About Aspire Public Schools

Aspire Public Schools is a nonprofit organization that currently operates 34 high-performing, open-enrollment public charter schools serving 12,000 students in underserved communities across California. Aspire is one of the highest-performing public school systems in California, delivering a rigorous “College for Certain” education to students in grades K-12. An unrelenting focus on college preparedness led to 100 percent of graduating Aspire seniors being accepted to four year colleges or universities in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Aspire offers a high-quality education in six cities throughout California: Los Angeles, Oakland, Stockton, Sacramento, Modesto and East Palo Alto.  Visit Aspire Public Schools at