ASAP Program at ECU

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ECU graduate student Emily Pineda, left, explains the rules of a game to children in the ECU After-school Activity Program, which offers supervised physical activities in an after-school environment. Pineda is majoring in exercise and sport science with a concentration in physical activity promotion. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)


ECU after-school program offers physical activity, learning experiences

Jan. 23, 2014

By Kathy Muse
For ECU News Services

At an hour when many children her age are sitting down to complete their homework, seven-year-old Mckinsey Burt tosses her book bag aside and sprints down a basketball court at East Carolina University.

ECU student Sam Sheppard, right, instructs Mckinsey Burt in an activity using hula hoops. Sheppard is a physical activity leader (PAL) with the ECU After-School Program.
Mckinsey is one of 15 children enrolled in East Carolina University's After-school Activity Program, where Pitt County children ranging in age from five to 12 years old enjoy directed physical activities in a safe and positive environment. At the same time, ECU students who work with the children learn best practices for presenting physical activities and fitness experiences.

ASAP is housed in the Department of Kinesiology and co-directed by ECU professors Rhonda Kenny, Matt Mahar and Grace Anne Vick. Participants pay a fee based on the number of days they attend.

"We flipped the structure of the after-school activity program so that children participate in supervised free play as soon as they arrive," said Kenny. Children receive a healthy snack and the opportunity to complete homework following participation in physical activity.

That structure has worked just fine for Mckinsey, said her mother, Colleen Burt, who is principal of Elmhurst Elementary. "One afternoon she cried when I told her she would not be able to go. That's when we knew that she loved the program," Burt said.

Burt said it is important to get children moving after school since the majority of their seven hours in school is sedentary, and that was the initial reason she and her husband selected the program. She added, "We spent two years trying different programs and just found that she disliked the routines and structure. My daughter became bored, frustrated and would begin asking not to go to after-school."

Laupus Health Sciences Librarian Marlena Barber also has a daughter, Alice, attending ASAP. She said she has seen a positive change in her daughter's behavior since beginning the program.

"I think that is because of the high level of activity and the positivity at ASAP," Barber said.

ASAP participants Jack Shinpaugh, right,, and Sean Raedeke join in a game as part of the after-school program.
ECU health fitness specialist majors in the College of Health and Human Performance serve as physical activity leaders, or PALs. PALs design age appropriate lesson plans that focus on physical activity and submit their plans to the site supervisor, Emily Pineda. Pineda is an ECU graduate student majoring in exercise and sport science with a concentration in physical activity promotion.

"Often students have so many creative ideas," said Pineda. "I help PALs learn how to communicate an activity or game to children and the importance of focusing on a couple of objectives so that children grasp the idea."

ECU seniors Ashley Murchison and Deanna Conoscenti enjoyed working with the children as PALs last fall, earning experience that should benefit them in their chosen careers. Murchison said she appreciated learning how to work with a wide range of personalities. "You must be able to adapt to effectively teach and play with all of the children," she said.

"This is the most experience I have received working with children," said Conoscenti. "I enjoy developing games such as various relay races for children to complete."

"This experience is a great resume builder for students," said Vick. "They learn responsibility and the importance of being a good role model." Vick served as a site supervisor for the program when she was a student at ECU.

The program was developed in 2007 to help provide ECU students experience in working with children, Kenny said. She said experience with this population is essential because many venues that offer employment opportunities for graduates – such as commercial and corporate fitness centers, YMCAs and wellness centers – now provide children's programs.

"We looked around and did not see a program with this structure being offered. We didn't want to just offer a class; we wanted to fulfill a need," Kenny said.

"We maintain the quality of the program by training our students how to plan and lead a group of children in appropriate physical activity. We have stayed true to our goal," she said.


For more information, please contact Emily Pineda at

Pictured below, ASAP participants enjoy games structured by ECU students in the College of Health and Human Performance. At left is Tyler Raedeke. Abby Dixon, left and Lena Cox laugh during activities on the basketball court.