Ravens visit Westminster Elementary School for Project ACES celebration

The chant of "Ravens! Ravens! Ravens!" echoed through the gym of Westminster Elementary School as students decked out in purple gear waited in anticipation.

First came cheerleaders and mascot Poe, running into the room to high-five the students. Next, came quarterback Josh Woodrum and defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, who ran up and down the aisles between where students sat as the kids cheered and screamed.


The excitement-filled start to the morning was the culmination of Project ACES.

James Rodriguez, supervisor of Physical Education and Health for CCPS, said Project ACES, which stands for Active Children Excel in School, is a two-week activity challenge for elementary school students to be active 60 minutes a day for 14 days. This could be through physical activity in gym class, in a rec sport or even just doing yard work at home, he said.

In health class, students are also learning about staying in shape and healthy eating.

"We believe the mind and the body work together," Rodriguez said.

This program fits in with Play 60, an initiative sponsored by the NFL to help kids be active, he added.

It's great to have the athletes come in and talk with the kids, he said, because it inspires the children to emulate their behaviors.

"Most of these kids, if not all of them, have seen these folks on TV so they are in many ways role models to these students," Rodriguez said.

For the first time this year, Westminster Elementary School was the winner for Carroll County Public Schools, Westminster Elementary School Principal Whitney Warner said.

"It's an awesome feeling," she added, to be the winner and have Ravens players, cheerleaders and the mascot come out to the school.

Every year, Warner said, Westminster Elementary includes getting better at Project ACES in its school improvement plan. It's been a collaborative effort between everyone in the school to continue to promote health eating and exercising habits, she added.

"Seeing this makes us feel like we have made a difference," Warner said.

And while the day was about exercise, and a reminder to stay healthy, for many of the kids, it was an hour of fun.

After a chance to ask questions, students got to go outside to do different exercises, run around, and pose for photos and talk with with the players, cheerleaders and Poe. The students broke into groups, some doing push-ups, others sit-ups, some even doing burpees before breaking to run laps around the fields.

Ten-year-old Claire Welch said Monday's event was something cool she was excited to experience.


"It was fun even though I'm a Steelers fan," she added.

Claire said she personally loves playing softball and gymnastics, and eating fruits and vegetables. It's important to stay in shape and eat right because when you're healthy, she said, you can do a lot of things more easily.

Woodrum said he enjoyed getting to come out and talk to the kids about staying in shape and healthy eating. Before heading outside for activities, students got to ask questions like what Ravens players get to eat for lunch, how much a person should exercise each day and the requirements to being a football player.

"Anytime you have a platform to really give back to the community I think it's good to do the best you can and talk to the kids and just show them that as professional athletes, we're just normal people, too," he said.

As role models, he said, they want they best for the kids and want to encourage them to stay in shape and be healthy.

And it shows the kids that one day, he said, they can be where he is now. It's important to try to make a different and motivate the kids — even if it's just one student's life they impact, it's worth it, he added.

"That's what it's all about at the end of the day," Woodrum added.