SAN JUAN – At 2 p.m. at IDEA San Juan a little over 100 students lined up to enter the standard-size middle school gymnasium.
Eagerly they awaited to be let in to participate in Workout Wednesdays, part of the Healthy Kids Here initiative that began in 2015 to combat the 40 percent of IDEA students being overweight or obese.
Coaches Luis Guardiola and Ernesto Gutierrez set up the gymnasium prior to the students arriving dressed in their signature polo shirts with the school crest on their chest and khakis.
The students begin to stretch and then take a quick view of the exercises that will be attempted in the hour-long work out.
“These kids are going into battle against obesity,” Guardiola said. “Being in the Rio Grande Valley we're at the heart of diabetes and one thing we focus on is the physical aspect and expose the students to as many activities as we can not only during school but we have an after school get fit program.”
The get fit program is similar to what the students endure during the school day but after school students attend at their own will. After school Guardiola said there is an average of about 50 to 60 students that attend everyday.
It is through these work outs that IDEA San Juan has been able to see a six percent drop in Body Mass Index (BMI) which is leading the school district.
The program Guardiola and Gutierrez only runs on Wednesdays but because of that program students like seventh grader Mariel Lugo have lost 40 pounds.
Before Lugo came to IDEA her physical education class did not involve enough activity.
“I would just sit and talk to friends and eat,” she said.
One day after school she got a high fever, her lips were big and purple and she could not feel anything in her body. Doctors told her let out a disease in her body that was harmful.
Two weeks after the visit to the doctor she experienced cramps in her legs which led to more doctor's visits but no one could identify what was wrong with Lugo.
More doctors' visits and a surgery in her legs later Lugo received an x-ray of her spine only to conclude it was in the shape of a “C.”
“If I hurt it or did any exercise I would probably pop it and be paralyzed for the rest of my life,” Lugo said.
That's when Lugo arrived at IDEA San Juan. Never before had she seen people exercise so much.
Back at the doctor again Lugo was informed she had pre-diabetes. Lugo was given another hurdle in life to try and jump but with the help of her uncle she began to work out. She bought in to working out with her uncle no matter the consequences her spine might endure.
Then 12 years old Lugo's uncle hit her with a regiment that included push ups, pull ups, pacer lines and then they played soccer, volleyball and tennis. Her uncle kept her active.
That part of her life happened in sixth grade.
As classes began for Lugo in 2016 she was now a seventh grader.
Her coaches brought out the scales to begin the Workout Wednesdays and Lugo knew the last time she saw a scale it read 240 pounds.
“I stood on the scale and I was so scared,” she said. “When I looked down I weight 201 [pounds].”
Her uncle helped Lugo drop significant weight and because of that she was no longer pre-diabetic.
Going through the transition Lugo felt motivated knowing she had accomplished something she wanted.
Now Lugo is being asked by her friends at IDEA San Juan how she “did it?” Lugo simply tells them by “pushing myself and working hard.”
IDEA San Juan was the only school in the RGV that met the three percent goal dropped from 44 to 38 percent because of Workout Wednesdays.