Cathy Pallavicini-Whitt, B.A. English ‘82, Coordinator of Growing Healthy Kids Project, Holy Cross Hospital

A certified Pilates instructor for ten years, Cathy Pallavcini-Whitt has dedicated her career and life to health and fitness. While at STU, Cathy majored in English and Communications and was also a part of the first women’s Cross Country team. Her experience as a student-athlete lead her to be more health conscious and sparked a life-long passion for fitness. She began working in gyms and fitness clubs as a hobby which lead to a new found career.

Cathy now dedicates herself to the fight against childhood obesity. She launched her first childhood obesity prevention program in Broward County in 2004 for Memorial Healthcare. Since joining Holy Cross Hospital in 2007 as Coordinator of the Growing Healthy Kids program she has implemented the grant funded nutrition program in 48 parochial schools in Dade, Broward, and Monroe counties. The goal of the program is to improve nutrition and physical activity with kindergarten through eighth grade students utilizing traditional classroom and experiential learning techniques, such as onsite school vegetable gardens. In 2012 Growing Healthy Kids provided training and support to 62 schools which planted 622 edible gardens.

Cathy received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications from St. Thomas University in 1982.

1. You’re an advocate for living a healthy lifestyle, why do you feel it so important?
I have been an advocate for healthy living for as long as I can remember. Most people do not put out the effort that it takes to keep their bodies in good condition, 60% of the US population is overweight and 28% of children are overweight. If we stay the course, this will be the first generation where parents will outlive their children. A few minor lifestyle changes go a long way over time. I am always amazed at how little most people know about nutrition and exercise. If you take care of yourself you will feel good, simple. Most folks take better care of their car than they do themselves.

2. You majored in English and Communications while at STU, how did you end up in the health field?
I ended up in health and wellness because it was a passion, I do not look at it as a career because it is something that I love doing. When you love what you do it doesn't feel like work. I often overwork because I enjoy it so much.

3. Your passion is working with kids, why do you think health education for youth is so vital?
Health education and physical education are no longer part of standard curriculum, they are specials or electives. Most people want to live longer, but what is the point if quality of life is an issue. Most of the diseases are preventable through good eating habits and an appreciation of movement. I try to teach students to love movement and healthy eating, which does not have to be expensive or complicated.

A new project I am working on is bringing a Pilates Youth program to Broward County schools. Joseph Pilates started the method in the early 1990's as a form of rehabilitation. Once he opened a studio in New York his program appealed to dancers and athletes. Pilates wanted his method to be taught in schools. He believed that you had to push the body to move each day to keep the body and mind healthy. When combined with a diet packed full of vitamins and minerals and proper hygiene, it is the perfect complement to a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.

4. What did you learn while at STU, both inside and outside of the classroom that is helping you in your career?
At STU I learned to get out of my comfort zone. I became a student athlete and never considered it prior to attending St Thomas University. In the classroom I felt privileged to be able to talk to my professors when I needed help or just to have a conversation, a perk of going to a small private school. Something I took away from my experience at STU that helps in my career is to persist and to put yourself in an environment that supports your mission so you can accomplish your goals.

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