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Five Arizona Teachers Each Receive a $5,000 Grant

Grant money earmarked to fund school programs that fight childhood obesity

Five Arizona teachers and their schools each received a $5,000 grant to fund school programs that fight childhood obesity. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona awarded the five grants based on the winners’ exceptional execution of the 2016 Walk On! Challenge.

The Walk On! Challenge is a free month-long health and fitness challenge held each year in February. The program has reached more than 307,000 elementary-aged children since it began and aims to motivate them to incorporate healthy habits into their daily routines for a healthier lifestyle now and in the future.

An independent panel of educators reviews the applications and scoring is based on the participation level of the students, an increase in awareness of healthy choices, how teachers implemented the program in the classroom and plans for the grant money. This year, teacher applications featured ideas to plant a garden, provide healthy food tasting events for families, invest in new and exciting exercise programs such as DRUMTASTIC and to purchase new playground equipment.

“I cannot express the amazing changes I have seen in my students from the Walk On! Challenge. We began the program with the pre-surveys, and with many blank faces on what this challenge would do for our lives. They really loved filling in their booklets each night, and sharing their health goals with the class, but I could tell they were hungry for more; so, we took it a step further.” said Monique Peralta, a fourth-grade teacher at Carrillo K-5 Magnet School in Tucson.

“The students wanted to be ambassadors of healthy living and wanted to share what they learned with others. They decided to go to the lower grades and teach what they learned through the Walk-On! Challenge. They talked about eating healthy foods and choosing to drink water instead of sugary drinks. They created brain breaks and PE games that got the classes active. Not only did these fourth graders learn about a healthy lifestyle, but also immediately passed on what they learned to the rest of the school.”

This year’s $5,000 grant recipients were:

  • Jerlita Buranday at Lourdes Catholic School in Nogales
  • Beth Marchen at Salk Elementary School in Mesa
  • Monique Peralta at Carrillo K-5 Magnet School in Tucson
  • Helen Pianga at Ehrenberg Elementary School in Quartzsite
  • Nubia Ruiz at Sun Valley Charter School in Phoenix 

Teachers from 142 schools all around the state participated in the Challenge reaching 22,000 fourth- and fifth-graders this year. In a student survey completed before and after the program, teachers reported a 34 percent increase in their students’ knowledge of the healthy choices they should be making every day.

“The Walk On! Challenge is part of our healthy living umbrella known as Nourishing Arizona. The program gives students a fun way to practice living a healthy lifestyle while learning firsthand the importance of good nutrition and physical activity,” said Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, chief medical officer for BCBSAZ. “Our goal is to help children value their health and to recognize their own role in protecting it.”

For more information about Walk On!, grant criteria or the 5-2-1-0 daily goal, visit



Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) is committed to helping Arizonans get healthier faster and stay healthier longer. With a focus on connecting people with the care they need, BCBSAZ offers health insurance and related services to nearly 1.5 million customers.


BCBSAZ, a not-for-profit company, is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The company employs nearly 1,500 people in its Phoenix, Chandler, Flagstaff and Tucson offices.


Through advanced clinical programs and community outreach, BCBSAZ is moving health forward. To learn more, visit