Students Jump at the Chance to Raise Funds and Awareness for Heart Health (via

West Essex — Education Top Stories

Students Jump at the Chance to Raise Funds and Awareness for Heart Health

Christine Corliss

Sunday, April 27, 2014 • 11:23pm

WEST CALDWELL, NJ - What do the Cotton Eyed Joe, Cha Cha Slide, and YMCA have to do with hearth health? Ask thrid through fifth grade students from Lincoln and Washington Elementary Schools and you are sure to get an unexpected answer -- it is how funds are raised for the American Heart Association. On March 27, the two schools worked together again to raise $12,000 for the American Heart Association through their annual Jump Rope for Heart Event. For Lincoln School, the event started with a simple flyer that arrived in the mail 15 years ago, but has grown into a highly anticipated annual event at the Caldwell school. Coordinated by school nurse Maryann Ciesla and physical education instructor Sheila Zeman, the event is held each year on the last Friday of March. Ciesla has been instrumental in raising more than $550, 000 during that time. Zeman, who also teaches at Washington Elementary School, carried the successful event to the West Caldwell School soon after its launch where it has been a successful event for 11 years.

At the event, students get their hearts and muscles pumping as they rotate around the school’s multipurpose room to one of six stations.  The activities range from individual jumping stations, to team jump roping, hopscotch, double Dutch and more.  Students begin at one station and progress around the room until they have completed all six stations. 

The teachers and administrators have so much fun in fact that Ciesla and Zeman have no trouble recruiting their peers to participate in the voluntary Friday night event.  Each year, nearly half of the school’s staff volunteer at the event, turning jump ropes, manning the stations or even attempting to double Dutch. This year, nearly 20 current and former teachers and staff members helped by twirling ropes, registering students, selling glow sticks and more.

“This year, Washington School first grader Justin Rodriguez was the star of the fundraiser, raising $1200,” said Zeman. “It was is an all-time record for both schools!”

Jump Rope for Heart is a national educational fund-raising program that is sponsored by the American Heart Association and the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD).   Elementary students engage in a physical activity (jumping rope) while raising funds to support lifesaving heart and stroke research.  The students ask friends and family for donations and receive thank-you gifts based on the dollars that they raise. The program teaches physical fitness while promoting the value of community service to students and their families, showing students that they can contribute to their community's welfare. 

For more information on the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District, visit