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Health Check Kids: 'Kids in the Canyon' program helps students, community

Central Falls High School is offering CrossFit training to its students -- and members of the community -– first thing in the morning. (WJAR)

Central Falls High School is offering CrossFit training to its students -- and members of the community -– first thing in the morning.

The started offering CrossFit training to students in 2010 to help cut down on tardiness and absenteeism, as well as to help improve grades.

And it's achieved all that, as it's improved attendance, academics and attitudes.

But it's also serving as a way to get some students in shape for the hike of a lifetime, Kids in the Canyon, which is a five-day hike of the Grand Canyon. It started as a school trip 12 years ago

"It was kind of recognizing the need that kids that weren't the varsity athlete type wanted to do something,” said Don Blais, a teacher at the school and the program coordinator of the Kids in the Canyon program. “So, it just kind of caught some momentum and rolled from there into what it is today."

Nayeli Vazquez, a sophomore at the high school, is planning to hike the Grand Canyon for the first time this year. She said she is getting even more out of the before-school workout.

"(I enjoy) waking up early and getting a workout done before I get to class so I can be awake and pay more attention to what I'm doing in school," said Vazquez.

"If you fall back, somebody comes and gets you,” said Kevin Serbellon, a recent graduate and program participant. “Just no man left behind."

"This is my fourth year hiking the Grand Canyon,” said Maria Haskell, who graduated from Central Falls last year. She is now a student at Rhode Island College.

"It's scary when you think about it,” said Parris Price, a member of the community who is training for the hike. “And when you actually try to do it, it's not as scary. You keep pushing yourself."

But the training goes beyond the workout.

"Anything and everything that we can do to get them prepared, from CrossFit here at school, to climbing Mt. Monadnock, to hiking at Lincoln Woods," said Blais.

"It's beautiful. It's eye opening,” Haskell said of her previous three trips to the Grand Canyon. “You think you're so big in the world until you see how big you are. You're barely a blink in earth's time."

Kids in the Canyon is always looking for mentors and it’s in the midst of fundraising for the trip, which will take place in April. To help out in either capacity, send an email to Don Blais at kidsinthecanyon@yahoo.com.

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