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Department of Defense grant helps expand strength and conditioning program in EPISD

(EL PASO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT Oct. 26, 2021) — A strength and conditioning initiative that began at Ross Middle School 13 years ago, got the greenlight from the Board of Trustees last week to expand to 15 more military-connected campuses.

The expansion is part of a $1.5 million Department of Defense Education Activity grant to extend the Raise Up the Bar (RUTB) program to Richardson and Bassett middle schools and Chapin High School. A variation of the program also will be implemented at Bliss, Torres, Cielo Vista, Hughey, Logan, Milam, Nixon, Park, Powell and Tom Lea elementary schools, and MacArthur PK-8 School. Ross also will receive funding. 

“The goal of the new DoDEA Raise Up the Bar project is to improve wellness and physical activity for students in kindergarten through 12th grade by providing tailored activities, engaging curriculum and real-time feedback to grow knowledge and skills that students are able to carry into their homes, communities, and adulthood,” said Lisa Mendez, DoDEA grants project manager. 

Coach Bobby Macias developed the RUTB program at Ross as an after-school program initially naming it ‘RossFit,’ later growing it into a class and renaming it Raise Up the Bar. The program has since expanded to Brown and Henderson middle schools. 

“It’s exciting,” Macias said. “Having the opportunity to impact more kids’ lives and extend the Raise Up the Bar movement to more campuses will make huge difference for our kids.”

Macias sees daily the impact of the program on his students, who are ready to work out even in the elements. They challenge each other, cheer for each other and grow stronger together.

“Raise Up the Bar is for everyone. It starts with the mindset of teaching them that every student in the program is an athlete,” Macias said. “It strengthens you mentally, physically and emotionally and prepares you for life. It builds resilience because you continue to get up and move every day.”

Already an establish athlete, eighth grader Ashli Cooper enjoys the conditioning and the days they do ninja warrior courses. She was among the athletes there when Mendez announce the grant and the additional schools joining the RUTB movement. 

“I love Raise Up the Bar,” she said. “It motivates kids to do better. I think it’s amazing because everyone has the chance to be introduce to this program and see the greatness of it.” 

Military student Jayden Bowser looks forward to the RUTB workout every day. The Ross signature program is something the military student has never encountered in the countless schools he’s attended over the years. He’s seen the difference it makes especially to military students by helping them meet new students and build relationships. 

“I love that it will be at more campuses,” he said. “You can get active, and you will learn a lot of discipline by working out and having fun with your friends. You can tell how much the coaches love this and encourage you to come out.” 

As the program expands to Chapin, many former military RUTB students will be able to continue what they started at Ross. 

“The Chapin community is extremely excited to be able to offer this program to our students and the community,” said principal Al Marsh. “The physical well-being of our students, faculty, and staff is such an important component of the educational process. I have seen the benefits that this program brings, and we are grateful that it will be offered at Chapin.”  

The Raise Up the Bar grant, which is EPISD’s third DoDEA grant this year, is evidence of the district’s solid relationship with DoDEA and Fort Bliss.   

“We are honored that more of the sons and daughters of our armed service men and women will become part of the Raise Up the Bar movement,” Macias said. “Thanks to DoDEA, it will help us strengthen so many more kids and change their world so much more for the better. Our kids need this now more now than ever.”

Story by Reneé de Santos
Photos by RUTB & L. Monroy