WESTFIELD, NJ — Seventh-grade students from Hillside Avenue won the 2018 UnitedHealthcare Health Bee competition in a spirited final round in Tuesday. UnitedHealthcare awarded the school a grand prize of $1,000 to apply to its health and wellness programs.

UnitedHealthcare awarded Deerfield and Roosevelt second place and each a $500 grant, and Lincoln the school spirit award and $250.

Students from six middle schools —  Roosevelt, Deerfield, Hillside Avenue, Lincoln, Orange Avenue and  St. Michael's —  competed in the quiz show-style competition designed to inspire students to learn about health, fitness and nutrition. They have been preparing for the competition since the fall.

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“This is our ninth year participating in the Health Bee,” Hillside Health and Physical Education Teacher Lucy Diaz said.  “It’s fun for the students — they enjoy the experience, the teamwork and representing Hillside.”

This is the ninth year of the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee competition in partnership with the YMCA’s 7th Grade Initiative, a program that offers complimentary YMCA membership to 7th graders to encourage healthy living.

“The Health Bee is a fun way to show what you learned and have healthy competition,” Hillside student Gianna Pantastico said.

The Health Bee promotes health in a different and fun environment and complements what they do in health class, according to Hillside Health and Physical Education Teacher Joe Bertucci.

“The students learn how to work as a team and get to bond through the studying process,” he explained.

Paul Marden, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of New Jersey, kicked off the competition at the Robert and Virginia Bauer Family Branch, Westfield Area YMCA and stressed the importance of adopting healthy habits early in life.

“Nearly a third of New Jersey youth are overweight or obese, according to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings® 2018 Health of Women and Children Report,” Marden said. “The UnitedHealthcare Health Bee educates students about nutrition, physical fitness and overall health in a way that’s fun and engaging. By helping kids understand how their choices affect the way their body works and feels, we help set them on a healthy path to adulthood.”

“The UnitedHealthcare Health Bee lets students celebrate their knowledge of health and wellness, and gives them a head start on adopting healthy habits,” said Amanda Aguirre, director of physical programs, YMCA. “Linking the UnitedHealthcare Health Bee competition to the 7th Grade Initiative adds a collaborative component to the program, which fosters greater participation and team-building skills among the students.”

UnitedHealthcare serves more than 1.7 million people in New Jersey with a network of more than 100 hospitals and 35,000 physicians and other care providers statewide.