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Hartford High Student Does the Teaching

  • Esme Cole, 17, of Wilder leads a set of air squats Tuesday, July 15, 2014 during Fun and Fit, a four week summer fitness program she devised for her peers at Hartford High School. The group of seven or more meets three days a week to tackle the workout routines researched by Cole. "Honestly, If I weren't doing this, I'd probably be on the couch with a bowl of cereal," said Emma Patriquin, 18, of WIlder, second from left. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Esme Cole, 17, of Wilder leads a set of air squats Tuesday, July 15, 2014 during Fun and Fit, a four week summer fitness program she devised for her peers at Hartford High School. The group of seven or more meets three days a week to tackle the workout routines researched by Cole. "Honestly, If I weren't doing this, I'd probably be on the couch with a bowl of cereal," said Emma Patriquin, 18, of WIlder, second from left.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Taylor WIlson, 16, of Wilder, right, passes a ten pound weight to Maddie Libuda, 18, of White River Junction, left, while working out at the Hartford High softball field Tuesday, July 15, 2014. It is their third week of Fun and Fit, which is in its third of four three-day weeks this summer.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Taylor WIlson, 16, of Wilder, right, passes a ten pound weight to Maddie Libuda, 18, of White River Junction, left, while working out at the Hartford High softball field Tuesday, July 15, 2014. It is their third week of Fun and Fit, which is in its third of four three-day weeks this summer.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Participants of Fun and Fit, a workout program led by Esme Cole, 17, of Wilder, third from left, do tricep dips at the Hartford High School softball field in White River Junction Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The routine varies between a number of strengthening and cardio vascular exercises planned by Cole each day. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Participants of Fun and Fit, a workout program led by Esme Cole, 17, of Wilder, third from left, do tricep dips at the Hartford High School softball field in White River Junction Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The routine varies between a number of strengthening and cardio vascular exercises planned by Cole each day.
    (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Esme Cole, 17, of Wilder leads a set of air squats Tuesday, July 15, 2014 during Fun and Fit, a four week summer fitness program she devised for her peers at Hartford High School. The group of seven or more meets three days a week to tackle the workout routines researched by Cole. "Honestly, If I weren't doing this, I'd probably be on the couch with a bowl of cereal," said Emma Patriquin, 18, of WIlder, second from left. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Taylor WIlson, 16, of Wilder, right, passes a ten pound weight to Maddie Libuda, 18, of White River Junction, left, while working out at the Hartford High softball field Tuesday, July 15, 2014. It is their third week of Fun and Fit, which is in its third of four three-day weeks this summer.<br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Participants of Fun and Fit, a workout program led by Esme Cole, 17, of Wilder, third from left, do tricep dips at the Hartford High School softball field in White River Junction Tuesday, July 15, 2014. The routine varies between a number of strengthening and cardio vascular exercises planned by Cole each day. <br/>(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

White River Junction — Schoolwork didn’t end for Hartford High’s Esme Cole when classes finished last month.

Cole’s classroom is the school’s softball field this summer. Three mornings a week she goes from student to teacher, leading a group of middle-school girls through a 90-minute workout in a program she calls Fun and Fit, which took Cole about a year to organize as part of a project for Hartford’s honors program.

The lessons she’s trying to impart — particularly when it comes to raising teenage girls’ self-confidence through exercise — are the ones she wishes she’d learned when she was in middle school. Watching a group of a half-dozen girls go through warm-ups on a humid Tuesday morning, Cole admitted excitement in finally getting to impart lessons she’s discovered since then.

“I’ve actually learned that some girls I thought were a little more confident that they actually aren’t, and this is good help for them,” the soon-to-be high school senior said. “Just being surrounded by good people (and) exercise, getting yourself out there and realize, ‘Oh, I did that. It wasn’t easy, but I was able to accomplish something big.’ ”

The same could be said for Cole’s efforts, which grew out of a requirement of the high school’s honors program of which she is a part.

Cole had the summertime choice of choosing a topic for a lengthy research paper or developing a program to address an area of interest. A varsity field hockey and lacrosse player with the Hurricanes, Cole chose a youth fitness program to capitalize on the things she enjoys, from getting physical activity with a group to making friends through exercise.

“When we talked earlier, it was cool how this idea popped into her head and unfolded into this program,” Hartford Parks & Recreation program coordinator Jay McDonough said. “She has girls who have attended each week. She’s really excited about that. She’s gaining organizational experience and program and planning experience.”

Not to mention a first-hand idea of how much work is involved in something that appears so simple to execute.

Cole first looked into running a youth-focused exercise program last winter, but quickly realized finding a suitable space for a class nearly impossible. Summer became a better alternative: No team sports to occupy fields and a lot more time to meet for morning workouts.

“It took a lot of trials and errors,” Cole said. “I went to the middle school first because I knew I wanted to work with that age group and do a little coaching. … I realized it probably wouldn’t work going through the school because everyone was so busy with other sports. The time when people are most free is summer — hopefully — and that’s when I could find an area to do it.”

McDonough presented the softball field as a meeting place and helped Cole get the word out on her free program. Classes meet Monday through Wednesday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to noon and will go through next Wednesday.

“She didn’t realize all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes along with creating a program,” McDonough said. “You have to be sure to organize and block out the space. There’s reserving the facility and advertising and promoting the program. You need a means to do that; that’s why she approached me: ‘How are we going to get an audience to attend this program?’ ”

Girls on the Run, a national 5-kilometer running and empowerment program, has served as a model for Cole’s plans. A one-time GOTR participant, Cole has sought to bring in youngsters who might not ordinarily choose a sport for an activity, but might still be open to the notion of getting exercise.

I “I think it’s cool what they do,” Cole said of GOTR.

Cole has also found a ready audience in some of her high school peers and teammates. Four of them — Emma Patriquin, Taylor Wilson, Maddie Libuda and Lily Duda — joined in Tuesday’s workout, quickly following Cole’s lead or taking over when asked.

Cole has also been keeping a journal of each day’s work and who’s been showing up to take part. Tuesday’s menu read like a countdown, starting with 60 jumping jacks and progressing through more than a dozen exercises, reducing reps down to a final, celebratory high-five when all was said and done.

“Usually we start off with a little warm-up, a lap, some stretching,” Cole said. “Every day we do at least two full circuit exercises — no weights, just using your body in ways to strengthen. We usually have a relay in there, which is a little bit of exercising and fun at the same time.

“We like to throw in a sport, too. Last week we had a theme of lacrosse; the girls got really into it. We did soccer yesterday. Field hockey baseball (a combination of the two sports) — that was interesting.”

Cole will still be required to submit a paper to the honors program describing what she’s done when the next school year arrives. She figures it’ll cover three topics: starting a program from scratch, the experience she’s had with it and the relationship of young girls and confidence to the sports they choose to play.

With the experience behind her, Cole could see offering Fun and Fit again next summer.

“It’s been cool to see,” she said. “I’ve seen their confidence grow in the span of three weeks.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.