When schools shut down for the remainder of the academic year due to COVID-19, Samarth Mannikeri, a seventh-grader at Charles Boehm Middle School, had one goal in mind – help his peers stay healthy and active while at home.
In order to accomplish this, and with assistance from his teachers, the 13-year-old Yardley resident created a virtual Google Classroom, where he shares nutritious recipes and tips on how to get moving, such as taking a jogging break at intervals throughout the day.
Mannikeri learned this vital information as a student ambassador of Fuel Up to Play 60 – the leading in-school health and wellness program launched by the NFL and American Dairy Association North East, which empowers today’s youth to lead healthier lives. Through the program, students are encouraged to eat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and exercise for 60 minutes daily.
When Mannikeri launched the Google Classroom, he wasn’t looking for attention. But after the NFL got wind of his efforts, he was selected to not only tell his story in a prerecorded video during day three of the NFL Draft, but make the Saturday, April 25 draft pick announcement for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the only student in the region, and the only FUTP60 student nationally, to participate in draft activities.
“I was shocked to be chosen by the NFL. I was like, ‘Is this really happening?’ It was mind-blowing. So many thoughts were running through my head. It was surreal,” Mannikeri said. “I was quite literally speechless.”
Kristina Moher, of the American Dairy Association North East, and manager of the FUTP60 program, praised Mannikeri’s initiative.
“Samarth is one of our very active Fuel Up to Play 60 student ambassadors from the greater Philadelphia area. He’s been instrumental in helping his program advisers activate the program at his school prior to the COVID-19 crisis, and during. After schools were closed, he started a FUTP60 Google Classroom, where he would share tips with his peers to help keep them active and eating healthy foods that are fun to make, like yogurt smoothies,” she said. “This caught the attention of the NFL, who ultimately chose him out of four students nationwide to announce the community draft pick for the Eagles on day three of the Draft. We’re very proud of his hard work and are so happy he has been given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
As a FUTP60 student ambassador since the fourth grade, Mannikeri is passionate about promoting health among young people, and eliminating childhood obesity. Even when COVID-19 is a thing of the past, he has no plans of shutting down the Google Classroom, or his website, which explains how students and parents of the Pennsbury School District can get involved in FUTP60.
“I really hope to take this Google Classroom and my website further to spread this awareness, especially around my area. I hope to bring it to the high school, where it’s really not as prevalent up there,” he said. “The program allows me to issue updates, make announcements and suggest activities, such as physical workouts and healthy eating with dairy recipes, for the students.”
In addition to participating in the NFL Draft, Mannikeri has enjoyed a slew of memorable experiences over the years as a FUTP60 student ambassador. After earning the highest number of points in a contest that tasked students with eating healthy and exercising, Mannikeri attended his first football game, which saw the Eagles take on the Cowboys.
He also attended two national summits in Cleveland, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia, where he met a number of football stars and chatted with students from across the country about healthy lifestyles.
Visit fueluptoplay60.com/ for more information.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org