Hunt Elementary Rocks With Jump with Jill!

Promoting a healthier lifestyle with singing and dancing!

JACKSON, MI — Vegetables aren’t necessarily the food of choice for many children, but that’s not stopping Laura Brown of Jump with Jill from trying to make a change in the Jackson area.

Jump with Jill returned to Jackson Public Schools for a second straight school year on Wednesday, Feb. 4, bringing a message of improving health through better eating and more physical activity to Hunt Elementary School. The event featured interactive dancing and singing with students and teachers, all centered around alternative food options such as vegetables, fruits and dairy products.

“I liked it because we got to dance,” said Charles Diggins, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Hunt. “(I’ll now) eat more vegetables, and drink more water and milk.”

The event ran for about an hour and was led by Brown, who served as “Jill” during the event. Brown was teamed with Devin Watson, who performed as “DJ DevyWatt,” to put on the entertaining show. The group brought in speakers and lights to help create a concert-like feel, and engaged the children by having them sing and dance throughout the performance.

The stop at Hunt was part of a 35-school spring tour across the state for Jump with Jill. Brown said Jump with Jill also has a 35-school fall tour and hits 50 more schools during the year.

The organization is paired with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan and is considered the world’s only nutritional rock ‘n’ roll show. Jump with Jill has been around since 2008, but it wasn’t until December 2013 that Brown realized she wanted to become involved. Brown worked as a dietitian and realized Jump with Jill was an effective way for her to teach children the benefits of a healthier lifestyle.

“I did musical theater for fun on the side so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to combine my two passions and really reach kids on a really unique fun level to make them really believe in nutrition and see the benefits of it,” Brown said. “In my old job, I just kind of felt like I was hitting a wall. Kids didn’t really see why it is cool so this is a cool way to inspire them.”

At the end of the event, Brown welcomed six student volunteers to the front to help perform the event’s final song — a rap on the benefits of drinking milk. Hunt Principal Mary Jo Raczkowski-Shannon was also welcomed up front to show off her dance moves as part of the finale.

Raczkowski-Shannon said she had a blast performing with the Jump with Jill cast and students, and was pleased with the outcome of the assembly.

“I love doing that kind of stuff so it was wonderful,” Raczkowski-Shannon said. “If we expect our kids to do it then I feel like the adults should do it so we were out there doing it and having a great time.

“I thought it was very educational, it was high energy, the kids loved it, the staff loved it. It was wonderful.”

Fourth-grader Cassidy Rodgers, 9, said she enjoyed the performance, and that the dancing was her favorite part. More important, Rodgers said she’s going to start playing outside more often and choose healthier foods, fueling the overall message Jump with Jill is trying to create.

“We want kids to leave knowing that they only get one body for their entire life,” Brown said. “So it’s their job to respect their body and take care of their body by making healthy food choices.”