Colchester eighth-grader Catherine Jones is the statewide ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 fitness and nutrition program. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Colchester eighth-grader Catherine Jones is the statewide ambassador for the Fuel Up to Play 60 fitness and nutrition program. (Photo by Jason Starr)

Catherine Jones has almost singlehandedly kept the Colchester School District involved in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, a collaboration of the National Dairy Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the NFL that focuses on childhood nutrition and exercise.

As a fourth-grader, Catherine was part of a group of 13 students that transitioned from a cafeteria food committee at Malletts Bay School to a local Fuel Up chapter. Catherine has remained committed to the program, but by the time she entered middle school as a sixth-grader, she was the only Colchester student involved.

As an eighth-grader this year, Catherine was named the program’s statewide student ambassador for Vermont, making summer trips to a regional conference at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts and a national conference in Illinois.

She’s working to rebuild participation at Colchester Middle School and looks forward to implementing the program at Colchester High School next year.

“My goal this year is to leave a lasting effect and leave something for the seventh-graders to be able to continue the program,” she said.

Catherine’s commitment has left an impression on Colchester food services director Steve Davis, who also works on student nutrition. Catherine and Davis have collaborated on establishing healthy snack options in the cafeterias, such as a smoothie station. Catherine has also helped organize school-wide taste tests and writes about exercise and nutrition for a national Fuel Up blog called The Huddle.

“She has helped a ton,” Davis said. “She is a great leader.”

Currently, Catherine is organizing a fundraiser sponsored by New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, whom she has met multiple times through her work with Fuel Up. The fundraiser focuses on helping local food shelves purchase milk. Schools that raise the most money will have a chance to host McCourty on a school visit.

Catherine’s summer trip to Illinois for the national student conference helped inspire her to challenge her peers to improve their nutrition and exercise. Colchester students are strong when it comes to physical activity, she said, but there is room for improvement when it comes to eating healthy.

“There are a lot of kids, myself included, who are geared more toward junk food,” she said. “Junk food is OK, but it has to be in moderation. That’s a problem not only here but in a lot of places.

“The goal is to get more kids to be active and eating healthy.”

Catherine is currently vying for a spot on Fuel Up’s national youth council, a group of students from around the country that help the Dairy Council, NFL and USDA design the Fuel Up program.