U Professor Honored for Establishing Physical Education Program for Children with Disabilities

Serving 140 children each semester, U-FIT helps build self-esteem and improve physical fitness

March 25, 2014 — Hester Henderson, associate professor of exercise and sports science will receive the University of Utah’s Distinguished Faculty Service Award for creating a student-led program for children with disabilities and their families. Henderson will be honored with other annual awardees at the Bennion Center’s Community Engaged Recognition Luncheon, March 27, noon in the Ray Olpin University Union.

Established in 2000 and serving 140 children each semester, U-FIT provides physical activities in a non-competitive atmosphere to help build friendships, increase self-esteem and improve motor skills and physical fitness. Recognized in 2013 as a Beacon of Excellence program, U-FIT also encourages family involvement to meet the individual goals and needs of each participant.

Children receive one-on-one instruction from trained students at the U. Each semester, Henderson’s program provides 160 U students from a variety of disciplines, the opportunity to participate in this meaningful educational and community-engaged learning experience. U-FIT also offers leadership opportunities for graduate students in the special physical education program.

“Not many people could inspire hundreds of undergraduate students to give up their evenings to provide activities for children with disabilities,” said Karen Paisley, associate dean of the College of Health “She modeled what it means to be a mentor to students.”

Student volunteers lead a wide variety of individualized activities each Friday evening that includes swimming, art, dance and various games and sports inside the gym. Siblings are encouraged to get involved and have their own volunteer for special one-on-one attention.

“Through her longstanding service commitment to the U, her students and hundreds of local children with disabilities and their families, Hester continues to make meaningful differences on our campus and in our community,” said Robin Marcus, interim dean of the College of Health. “On top of U-FIT, Hester has taught parents, teachers and students successful behavior management, motivation and inclusion principles.”

For more information on U-Fit.

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