First lady brings campaign for physical education to Chicago

First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new initiative in Chicago Thursday called "Let's Move Active Schools," which encourages physical education in schools. ( WGN - Chicago)

First lady Michelle Obama brought her high energy "Let's Move" campaign to Chicago today, where she announced a new phase of the initiative that will place a greater emphases on physical activity.

The "Active Schools" initiative, funded primarily by a $50 million grant from Nike Inc., will help pay for new physical education programs in schools that meet exercise standards.

Surrounded by athletic superstars including tennis champion Serena Williams, gymnast Gabby Douglas, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and "The Biggest Loser" trainer Bob Harper, the first lady told 6,000 cheering Chicago Public Schools students gathered around the stage that they have the potential to be great.

"The only thing separating you out there and us on the stage is the choices you make in life," Obama said, after returning to the stage dressed in red and black exercise wear. Earlier in the program she wore a black business suit while thanking Nike and other corporations for supporting the program.

The athletes led the crowd of screaming and jumping students in an exercise routine at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Dr. The first lady and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, dressed in exercise clothes, joined in the high energy routine with loud techno music and colorful strobe lights.

The Nike donation, delivered over five years, will allow schools to partner with community organizations and other groups to provide exercise programs  to benefit children. Schools also will be able to implement physical education programs during the school day.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, in an interview prior to the event, called the violence in Chicago "staggering" and suggested that such after school programs could have an impact on curbing it.

"Our families, our communities, our children deserve so much better," he said. "We have to allow our children to grow up in a safe environment."

Chicago is the third stop on the first lady's multi-city tour observing the 3rd anniversary of the "Let's Move" initiative.

As part of Chicago's efforts to curb obesity, officials announced a "Healthy CPS Action Plan," giving schools a comprehensive plan to improve health and wellness of students.

Earlier today, the Chicago Department of Public Health released new obesity numbers for Chicago Public Schools students. According to the report, 36.5 percent of children entering kindergarten are overweight or obese, as well as 48.6 percent of 6th graders and 44.7 percent of 9th graders.

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