School staff gets faith and fit

ORLANDO | After the ups and downs of a long school day, staff at St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando spend time in prayer and exercise to refocus and decompress. Faith and Fit is in its second year and is offered once a week, for any staff wishing to participate. The troupe ranges from two to 10 on any given Tuesday.

The idea was Principal Latrina Peters-Gipson’s brainchild. “I am a strong believer in prayer so whatever I do, I always begin with prayer. As educators, we take care of others so much that we forget to take care of ourselves and research has shown regular activity can improve your quality of life.” She notes, “Improving the quality of your life will allow you to continue to help others, which would prayerfully improve the quality of their life.”

Shirley Descopain describes herself as a proud middle school Religion teacher. She participated this year for the first time, albeit reluctantly. “I have to be honest by sharing that I hesitated a little. I hadn’t worked out in years. I didn’t know what to expect. I just thought it would be fun to work out and spend time with my colleagues outside of the stressful days of school.” She said Gipson went easy on her.

“Mrs. Gipson and I began with prayer to clear our minds and to receive God’s grace. We were then off and walking.” They walked the campus in the late afternoon. Although it was hot and sunny, Descopain says, “… we walked and talked and I didn’t even realize I was actually exercising. It was painful, but felt good at the same time. I was able to relieve some stress that I had felt prior.”

That is one of the reasons Peters-Gipson started the program. “I believe it is important for my team because exercise reduces stress and when you are stress free you tend to be in a good place spiritually.  It is much like teaching, we teach the whole child so as adults, we need to take care of the whole person, which is physically and spiritually.” She notes, “It is just a good team building experience because we walk and talk with each other and share life experiences.”

Descopain says, “It is a blessing to be able to walk and talk with those that you work with because there usually isn’t enough time in the day to do that with our busy schedules with children. “Praying always puts me at ease. Praying as a staff is something that is done often, so it allows me to give praise together with everyone. We walked at the end of the day, so the stress that I felt during the day simply diminished. It was a great feeling. I also felt a lot more energetic heading home.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic September 25, 2019