BRATTLEBORO — Within the deep sea of corporations, there are individuals behind the machine who care about their community. For local 7-Eleven store manager Jessica Perron, that meant giving to the Academy School.

Perron presented a $711.00 Project A-Game grant to the Academy School Administration on Thursday, January 21. The school has decided to use the grant to support Academy's Winter Walking Program and other areas of health and wellness. This grant was made possible through 7-Eleven's Project A-Game youth outreach program and its mission is to help kids develop their full potential by promoting academics and athletics, and the values and the life skills they teach, as a path to success.

"I just thought it would be a great thing to be able to give back to the community," said Perron. "Schools are definitely in need as much as possible and this helps kids stay on the right track."

The Project A-Game youth outreach program allows local store managers to make financial contributions in the communities in which they operate and is jointly funded by the company. Perron's assistant manager, Shannon Woods has a son, Kyle Woods, who attends sixth grade at Academy School and Perron felt it would be "special" to support her fellow employee as well as a school that is located down the street.

"I really tried to keep things as local as I could, so I thought Academy would be a great place since Shannon works for me and her boys have gone or go there."


To celebrate the grant, a group of sixth graders from the Academy School walked over to the store to receive the check. The students are all involved in the school's The Leadership Team, which encourages students to positively influence their fellow classmates. Throughout the year the Leadership team meets every Thursday with school guidance counselor Judith Palmeri to discuss ways in which they can promote respect and acceptance among their peers.

"When I'm with the kids I say, 'you have to walk the walk, you can't just talk the talk, you're not a leader if you don't lead through your own life,'" said Palmeri. "All of these kids are really kids that care, and if they see something that is wrong they are willing to stand up and make a difference."

The students celebrated with a large check presentation, and 7-Eleven provided Pizza and drinks for the kids. After the celebration the students thanked Perron and walked back to the school.

But walking is not something that is foreign to many of the students, as some of them have recently started to participate in their eight-week walking program, which awards students not just for the amount of laps they complete but also for their sportsmanship.

"In the past, every 20 laps, the kids could earn a Toe Token, but we wanted to go away from that because that really incentivise the result and end product, but we want to promote effort," said the Academy School's physical education teacher, Matt Johnson. "If two kids walk out and give it their best, but one does 10 laps another does eight, we want to reward both, so we're going to try and have a team atmosphere this year and get everyone who can be walking out there."

According to the Academy School's assistant principal, Mary Ross, the prizes will be awarded through class nominations.

"It might be the person who runs the most amount of miles, or it might be the person who is really encouraging their classmates," said Ross.

The school's winter walk path surrounds the perimeter of their playground. Students are encouraged to walk the course before classes begin, during recess or at the end of the school day. For each lap they complete, a student receives a Popsicle stick and four laps amounts to one mile. Each year the staff offers different incentives to encourage the kids to engage their Winter Walk Program. The grant may be used to purchase such prizes along with other wellness tools.

"We don't have specific plans yet, but we have some ideas," said Ross in regards to how the grant will be dispersed to promote health and wellness. "We have also talked about building what's called a Ga-Ga pit outside for recess." Ga-ga is a variant of dodgeball that is played with one ball. The game combines dodging, striking, running, and jumping, with the object of being the last person standing. Players hit the ball at each other with their hands, and are eliminated if the ball strikes them on or below the knee. The game can be played by a group of individual players or with teams.

The Academy School had the choice to use the grant toward academics or athletics, and the school felt partial toward promoting healthy living.

"It makes me feel so happy to work in a school where I feel supported and that supports exercise, nutrition and wellness," said Johnson. "I'm sure it's not that place at place, and I think it makes a big difference for the kids."