Young life of service

Rebecca Kelley

Thu August 28, 2014 10:06am

One out of every three children in the United States is overweight or obese. If not addressed, childhood obesity puts our South Bay kids at risk for health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
According to federal data, the predominance of overweight children in our nation has more than doubled among 6- to 11-year-olds, and more than tripled among 12- to 19-year-olds.
Childhood obesity is rising, physical activity is lessening, and life expectancies for our youth are getting younger and younger. The silver lining? Childhood obesity is preventable. September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and trailblazing the way for preventing the epidemic is Anahi Cuellar. Otay Ranch resident Anahi Cuellar is the YMCA’s site supervisor at McMillin Elementary and she oversees the youth fitness program.
“I’m from the South Bay. I grew up in Paradise Hills. My family has been in Otay Ranch for more than a decade. I’ve worked at three YMCA school sites (Discovery, Casillas and McMillin), and I’ve seen first-hand how vital fitness is to having a healthy and strong community. Some of our kids come to our program shy and timid, and end the school year healthy, confident and happy.
“Youth fitness is more than push-ups and jump rope. It’s about incorporating activity and movement into your daily routine as a family. It’s a lifestyle.” 
Anahi, whose name translates in Spanish to mean “pure,” graduated from the University of San Diego. While small in stature, pint-size Anahi, packs a punch. She is a trunked Muay Thai fighter for a gym in San Diego.
“Fitness is part of my life. Giving youth tools to live a healthy and active lifestyle isn’t just my job, it’s my passion. It truly takes a village to raise a child. Working at the Y has given me a chance to directly shape the lives for youth in my community.
“The Dalai Lama once said, ‘Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.’ I really like that quotation. I’m actually a quiet, reserved person. I’m left-handed, know sign language and enjoy baking. I’m also into yoga. Yoga calms me and helps me get centered.”  
The Chula Vista Charitable Foundation provided an initial grant in the amount of $10,000 to the Y for implementing a youth fitness program in 2011. Since its inception, the program has served 4,000 youth in our community.
Rebecca Kelley is South County regional director of marketing, media and community relations at South Bay YMCA.