Ani Muralidharan had always been a huge football fan, specifically of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. But he had never heard of the NFL’s Fuel Up to Play 60 Program, even though it was much closer to him than he ever knew.
“At my middle school, there was a Fuel Up to Play 60 club already established,” Ani explained. “They had bi-monthly meetings and there was talk of all the initiatives the club would start at school. And it involved football, which I’ve always been a big fan of. I joined and heard of all the cool rewards that could be earned.
“But I learned it was more than just football and rewards. I read all the success stories on the website and that inspired me and told me it wasn’t just about prizes. It’s about making a difference. From there, my passion for the program took off.”
Five years, countless events and summits and a surprise scholarship later, Ani is one of those Fuel Up to Play 60 success stories.
A member since 2013, Ani, now a junior at Kingsway Regional High School in Woolwich Township in New Jersey, has first-hand experience as a Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador of how the program can change lives and help guide students to healthy, successful days.
“Fuel Up to Play 60 has helped me in so many ways,” he said. “One of the main things is that it’s helped me with my public speaking. As part of the program, I get to speak at a lot of events, including American Dairy Association North East events and national events.
“I also now take great care and watch what I eat. That’s something I was able to pick up from the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.”
American Dairy Association North East and the Fuel Up to Play 60 program work together to teach students about all the health benefits of milk and dairy through fun football-related activities and help students gain better, easier access to dairy products.
Ani played an integral role in expanding his school’s access to dairy products after realizing the school lunchroom was located at the far end of a rather large high school campus.
“I helped with the creation of my school’s Eat Smart Café,” Ani explained. “My school runs on a smart lunch schedule and block periods, meaning we drop a block each day and it allows for us to have an hourlong lunch. Lunch is cut into two sessions during which club meetings happen. Many of these club meetings happen on one end of the school. So students would bypass lunch to go to their meetings.
“I started noticing this and noticing kids in my classes were hungry and were having trouble focusing. I signed up my school for the Transformation Experience Challenge. I helped implement a Grab-And-Go area where students can buy pre-made lunches full of dairy on the other end of the school by the classrooms.”
For all his work in the program, Ani recently was eligible for a scholarship toward college from GENYOUTH and its collaboration with Fuel Up to Play 60. And earn it he did. In January, Ani received $7,500 towards the college of his choice.
But, shhhhh! It was a secret Ani didn’t know about until the board meeting began that night.
“I had to keep quiet for a week,” his mom said while laughing.
“My principal called me into his office two weeks ahead of time and he asked me to speak at the next board meeting about the health and wellness conference in New Jersey that I just spoke at,” said Ani, who’s looking to study in the medical field somewhere on the East Coast.
“When I got to the meeting, I saw my name on the agenda, but nothing listed about what I was supposed to talk about. My program advisor came out and she started talking about the scholarship. That’s when I found out. It was a total surprise.”
Ani hopes his experiences with Fuel Up to Play 60 can be a guiding light to others. His goal while still in the program is to inform others about how it can play a role in changing their lives.
“There’s the football aspect, obviously. It’s a great program and there a lot of cool football things involved,” he said. “But the program can have positive effects on all types of people. It can affect people who are shy. It even helps with things like leadership skills, entrepreneurship and I’ve even had the chance to learn about sustainability.
“But it’s about being healthy, too, and how this can really affect your own health and wellness in such positive ways. It’s about how you can make a change in your life and changes in other people’s lives.”
Please click here to learn more about American Dairy Association North East's partnership with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.
American Dairy Association North East is one of 19 state and regional promotion organizations working under the umbrella of the United Dairy Industry Association. It is the local affiliate of the National Dairy Council®, which has been conducting nutrition education and nutrition research programs since 1915. For more information, visit www.americandairy.com.