Villanueva fires up local students

Steelers' offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva got students at Banksville Elementary School fired up on a cold, winter day at a Fuel Up to Play 60 assembly on Wednesday.

Pittsburgh Steelers Alejandro Villanueva visits Banksville Elementary to encourage students to eat healthy and exercise.

Villanueva, a former U.S. Army Ranger who is still in the Army Reserves, told the kids he was able to attain the goals he set in life by following the lessons his father taught him, and shared those lessons as he encouraged them to work hard to attain their dreams.

"I followed three easy steps my father taught me as a kid and it helped me achieve many things in life," said Villanueva. "The three things are responsibility, discipline and having fun."

Villanueva tied the three in to nutrition, from being responsible for school work and chores at home, to maintaining proper nutrition when he revealed he has been drinking almost a gallon of milk a day since he was a kid. He also encouraged them to be disciplined in attaining their goals, something he had plenty of at West Point, and that included maintaining a proper diet. He also told them to have fun, from playing sports and staying active, to just enjoying every day activities and schoolwork.

"It will have a huge impact on their lives, the quality of life and the things they are able to do if they exercise and eat healthy," said Villanueva, who spent the 2014 season on the practice squad. "For me, staying healthy has allowed me to keep my options open not just in the military, but the NFL. Information is available to make good choices and it's something kids have to do at an early age.

"One of the great things about being an NFL player is being able to talk to younger crowds and deliver a positive message. They just want to learn. For me to give that message out feels great. I was influenced by programs like this as a kid. It is a great reminder for kids that eating healthy and being able to exercise every day is going to help them reach their goals."

Banksville Elementary also received a $10,000 Home Town Grant from Fuel Up To Play 60 and the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, something they applied for to help promote healthy eating and physical activity for the students.

The grant will be used to enhance the school's understanding of 'Energy Balance, construct a Healthy Choices Garden, and aid in extending Fitness Fridays with fitness and exercise equipment.

"We had the student ambassadors working with our teachers and they decided how the money would be disbursed," said Banksville Principal David May. "We are tying in the healthy foods initiative as well as drinking the dairy products, making sure we push drinking the dairy products at breakfast and lunch."

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