Cornelia Virella is on a mission to help children lose weight, eat right and exercise. To that end, she operates Swagger Crew Fit Kidz, a nonprofit dance program that meets at the Dominy School of the Performing Arts in Conyers.
Georgia is ranked second in the nation for childhood obesity, said Virella, vice president of Swagger Crew Fit Kidz, and her aim is to address not only health issues, but also self-esteem challenges that often accompany weight problems.
During weekly dance classes, children learn different styles of dance such as hip-hop, jazz and ballet. They also keep a journal of what they eat and participate in workshops about the importance of choosing nutritious meals over fast food or processed food.
Virella said sometimes parents are in denial about their children being obese.
“It has to be handled sensitively but honestly,” Virella said. “Because of self-esteem issues, kids are shy about coming in and being in a group setting. We want them to trust us... Let us just work on this together.”
Virella said about 50 children currently participate in Swagger Crew Fit Kidz, but the program is always looking for new members, and a child doesn’t have to be overweight to join.
The cost is $60 per month for weekly classes, and the program serves preschool through high school age children.
The chief executive officer of Swagger Crew Fit Kidz is Jason Croom, who is a member of the hip-hop dance group Swagger Crew, for which the children’s program is named. Croom teaches the classes, along with Virella, Paula Dominy and Vanessa Arrington.
In March, Swagger Crew Fit Kidz will be filming a pilot documentary about the program, that will be submitted to ION Television Network for consideration. The goal, Virella said, is that a weekly program about Swagger Crew Fit Kidz be aired.
The nonprofit is also in the process of trying to raise $70,000 in funds and in-kind donations to build a playground in Conyers, with the help of Home and Garden Television Network star Carter Oosterhouse and his program, Carter’s Kids.
Virella said she invites those interested in joining Swagger Crew Fit Kidz to visit www.swaggercrewfitkidz.com.