As teachers at Sunrise, our role is unique. For the most part, the school environment is the part of the program that most closely resembles the girls’ home environment. While Sunrise strives (and succeeds) to provide a stable, consistent and healthy environment for the girls to heal and grow; living conditions, transportation, eating arrangements, and therapy all make life at Sunrise a lot different than “normal life.” But school is school and as teachers we have the opportunity to see the “real” personalities of the girls at their best, and also at their worst. This unique arrangement facilitates rapport and trust between students and teachers; creating the ideal learning environment. Students open up and communicate with teachers in ways that they may not with other program staff.
From early into my employment with Sunrise, this was made clear as the girls approached me regularly, knowing that my role would be health-related, to express the importance, want, and need of a comprehensive, consistent, and structured fitness and exercise program.
Instead of looking at the fitness program as “PE” that fits into the girls’ schedule, it makes more sense to approach it as a component of treatment that girls get academic credit for. The reason it should be viewed in this perspective is because of physical, psychological, and social benefits that assist in the recovery process. Our program focuses on putting “education” back in Physical-Education through exposure to many fitness modalities. The students are able to delineate the role of exercise and fitness throughout life because the program involves teaching “skills” instead of “games” across many fitness domains like: Cardiovascular Endurance, Stamina, Endurance, Muscular Strength, Flexibility, Power, Speed, Coordination, Agility, Balance, and Accuracy. Skills and activities include, but are not limited to: gymnastics, body-weight calisthenics, weight-lifting, running, and jumping to increase fitness across the ten domains.
In a 2012 study, researchers monitored humans and dogs to determine the impact of running on neurobiological rewards. The results matched prior experiments that showed replacing endorphins from an addicting substance with those from exercise, decreased the desire to return to their addictions. Endorphins have been linked to much more than addiction, and are cited to assist with anxiety, depression, stress and more. The problem with the study …running is simply not for everyone. Because the same endorphin-releasing impact can be observed from any form of exercise, the Sunrise program includes a variety of exercises that are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to more repetitive and monotonous exercises, such as running.
Within the framework of the Sunrise fitness program, everything is scored, tracked, and/or recorded. This type of framework engages the participant, encourages the goal setting process, and acts as accountability to those goals. Additionally, the goals and tracking within the program are performance based, which are a healthy alternative to the unproductive and meaningless common health goals like weight, inches and appearance. The program is designed into progressive modules that individuals can work on at their own pace and facilitate growth.
The Sunrise fitness program provides the girls with a healthy physical expression or outlet.  Taking them from a place where they are prisoners to their bodies through addiction, mental/emotional disorders, depression and anxiety etc. to a place where they not only have control of their bodies but are able to see, understand and feel what the potential in life their bodies can provide. That potential can empower the girls to achieve things that they didn’t know they were capable of.
– written by Jared Jones, MS, Health Teacher