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Alex O'Connell was chosen to serve as ambassador to promote healthy eating habits.

O'Connell selected as ambassador to help mobilize healthy changes in schools

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Alex O'Connell, a student at Cheney Middle School, West Fargo, was announced as one of 33 students nationwide selected to serve as a State Representative for Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program created in partnership with Midwest Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with USDA, that encourages students to eat healthy, be active and make positive, healthy changes in their schools and communities.

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State Representatives, along with four National Student Ambassadors, lead the Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Program, which engages youth directly as grassroots leaders that work to increase access to healthy foods and 60 minutes of physical activity at school. The program also encourages and recognizes schools and students with tangible rewards and resources such as a trip to the Super Bowl, official NFL gear and NFL player appearances.

Selected from a nationwide search that drew hundreds of applicants, these State Representatives and National Student Ambassadors attended a Student Ambassador Summit in Washington, D.C. last week. The Summit provided students the opportunity to meet their peers and help sculpt the program, which relies on the input and participation of students to grow and evolve. Summit attendees engaged in interactive educational leadership sessions that included special guest appearances by Matt Cassel, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs, LaVar Arrington, NFL Alumni Player, and Byron Sackett, Director of Child Nutrition with Lincoln County Schools in Lincolnton, N.C.

Alex's efforts in his own community have included growing the school's program from just 13 students to almost 70. His involvement has given him the confidence to try new things - including participating in new sports, trying out for the school musical and coordinating a taste test to help add more nutritious food options to add to the school's cafeteria line. While his efforts to increase physical activity among his peers have been outstanding, he respects the healthy eating element of the program the most. He's passionate about educating people about making healthier food choices, and encourages his peers to make changes gradually so that they become lifelong healthy habits.

"We could not be more impressed by this group of young people who have shown great dedication to Fuel Up to Play 60, and to the health and wellness of their peers," said Char Heer, a registered dietitian with Midwest Dairy Council. "Students across North Dakota have been making changes that help ensure a healthier future for themselves, their schools and their communities, and we can't wait to see all the great things they will accomplish with their new roles."

"Alex has absolutely immersed himself in the program, and we can't offer him enough things to do to keep him busy with it. He just loves it," says Lisa Woodbury, Fuel Up to Play 60 Program Advisor at Cheney Middle School. "It's really given him an opportunity to expose his leadership skills. They couldn't have asked for a better student ambassador."

For more information, about Fuel Up to Play 60 and the Student Ambassador Program visit www.FuelUpToPlay60.com.

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