• Students lose 750 pounds at MindStream Academy

  • For as long as Jason Alexander can remember, he has wanted to join the military. But at 330 pounds, he was well above the minimum weight requirements to join any branch of military service.

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  • For as long as Jason Alexander can remember, he has wanted to join the military. But at 330 pounds, he was well above the minimum weight requirements to join any branch of military service.
    So when his mother, Debbie, approached him about participating in a new partnership between the Independence School District and a South Carolina weight loss academy, the Truman High School junior did not hesitate to accept.
    “I wanted to lose the weight so I could join the Marines or the Navy,” he said. “I felt lousy, and I didn’t want to do anything. I was always afraid to go out and be more active. This was a chance to change that.”
    Just days before Christmas, 13 Independence students returned from MindStream Academy in Bluffton, S.C., after losing a staggering 750 pounds among them over the last four months. For Alexander, who lost 98 pounds, the transformation has been nothing short of amazing.
    “My family was shocked when they saw me,” he said. “It feels good to have lost so much weight. I feel good about myself.”
    MindStream Academy is considered among the leaders in the fight against childhood obesity, helping young adults and teenagers restore their health and wellness. It offers a year-round program in addition to a summer program where residents are under the daily guidance of counselors, educators, fitness instructors, dietitians and chefs. For the Independence students, daily school work was intermingled with regular workouts, nutrition classes, gardening and other activities.
    The Independence School District and MindStream Academy formed its partnership, the first of its kind, last spring as an effort to identify students who were not excelling in school because of issues such as weight, poor attendance and bullying. The program was conceived with the help of Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center, Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson and Ray Travaglione, founder and CEO of MindStream Academy.
    Cory Himes-Drake, director of health services for the Independence School District, described the boarding program as educating teenagers on how to live a healthier lifestyle.
    “It is a program which encompasses the entire child, working on the body and mind. Students at MindStream Academy are taught life skills, nutrition education, physical fitness, coping skills, while improving their self esteem and working on academics,” she said. “The ISD understands the issues surrounding childhood obesity, which is a growing concern in society. The Independence School District sees this as an issue in our schools and community and feels the school is the perfect venue for starting to reverse a trend.”
    Debbie Alexander, Jason’s mother, said she had looked at MindStream Academy in the past for Jason, who has struggled with weight loss for years. However, the cost, about $28,500 a semester, was too prohibitive. Through the school district’s partnership, most of the tuition was paid for through donations, grants and sponsors. The school district’s portion of the tuition fees came from the money allocated by the state to educate each student per semester. The families were only required to pay a small portion.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I have never been so shocked to see him in my life,” she said. “He has never been one of those kids to get good grades. He is usually the one that when I get phone calls from school, they are not good. But whenever I talked to the staff at MindStream, they were just glowing about him. He bought into the program and the process and completely committed himself. He never plateaued, he consistently lost weight.”
    Himes-Drake said now that the students have returned home, the district, along with MindStream Academy, has put together a support program for the students and their families. She said the district is also open to continuing this type of program the future.
    “This program will not only help them continue to be successful on their journey, but will allow them to educate others,” she said. “The ISD is extremely pleased with the results after one semester with this program. Attending MindStream Academy has been beneficial for the kids, in that everyone of them has lost weight, but they have each grown in other ways. The students have gained confidence in their abilities, increased their self esteem, learned coping techniques and been taught how to make a lifestyle changes which will impact them physically, emotionally and socially. The school district has benefited from the students attending MindStream because they are coming back to the educational system and community as ambassadors to help others struggling with the same issues.”
    Jason Alexander is also happy with his transformation over the last four months. Now about 230 pounds, he is only 40 pounds from meeting the weight requirements for the military, which is something he did not know would ever happen.
    “I have learned a lot about portion control and have found out that I love exercising,” he said. “I feel like the end is in sight now. My family and friends are their to support me and make sure that I will succeed. It was a great experience.”
    For more information about MindStream Academy, visit www.mindstreamacademy.com.

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