Class assignment brings about life changes

Rachel Morrison/Pioneer
College Writing II students, Rachel Snyder (left), Miguel Portillo (middle), and Brittany Hardin (right) demonstrate their own personal health challenge. Professor Amy Wilson’s college Writing II class have turned a writing assignment into action.

A group of OCCC students are reshaping their lives after what started as a simple classroom assignment took on a deeper meaning. Students in Professor Amy Wilson’s College Writing II classes have the option to participate in a fitness initiative to promote healthier living for extra credit.

Approximately three-fourths of Wilson’s students in her seven classes have taken her up on that offer.

Wilson said she introduced the bonus assignment entitled the “Health Challenge” to all of her College Writing II students. The premise was straightforward – make one positive change for your health for one week and then write about it. What followed was much more than just a writing task.

“It mushroomed from a creative writing assignment into a pretty big project to make themselves healthier,” Wilson said. “I’m really excited about seeing the intersection of students‘ good health while producing good writing.”

The idea is picking up steam, Wilson said, as the one-week plan is evolving into a complete endeavor. While the assignment was optional for all, Interest is rising, more students are joining in, and commitment is booming, she said. Wilson said she has even noticed an improvement in writing since the project has begun.

“I think most people do their best writing when it’s something they care about, and these students care about their health so they get really involved in it.”

The changes students are making range from healthier habits to life-changing adjustments. One student Brittany Hardin has taken the health challenge as an opportunity to quit smoking.

“I had been wanting to quit for a while,” Hardin said. “So when she gave us the option, I decided to take it seriously.”

Hardin said she has cut down on the number of cigarettes she smokes since the health challenge began.

Student Miguel Portillo decided to walk more for a week during the health challenge. Since then, he said, he has started walking more every week to get in better shape.

The ultimate goal is for students to see differences and feel better about themselves, Wilson said. Portillo is one who has noticed the differences since participating.

“I lost a little weight and went down a couple pant sizes,” Portillo said. “I knew it was good for my health and I wanted to stay in shape, so I kept at it.”

Because of the assignment’s popularity, Wilson now uses a little of each class period to discuss the experiences.

She said for about five minutes at the beginning of class, students come together as sort of a support group to share their progress. Different students converse about many obstacles including quitting smoking, drinking more water, and eating healthier as a whole.

Hardin uses the support from her class as extra motivation.

“Different people are going through the same things as me,” Hardin said. “So it’s nice to relate to each other and talk about our challenges together.”

Despite the group environment, however, Wilson said students are still very self-driven. Portillo not only participates for extra credit, but mostly for himself.

“I know that it’s up to me to make the changes for my body,” Portillo said. “I keep telling myself that any change you make in your life that it can end up for the best.”

Wilson said that she plans to keep the health challenge going as long as students keep showing interest.

She said it’s encouraging to see students making such positive changes in their lives no matter what the change is.

“It’s been a lot of fun and it’s motivated a lot of people,” Wilson said. “So as long as students are doing it, we’ll go with the flow and keep it going.”

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