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Kansas City Teen Finds Confidence and Leadership Through Healthy Choices

Brionna Williams of Kansas City understands the nation’s childhood obesity problem. She lived it. 

As a middle school student, Brionna tipped the scales at more than 350 pounds. She longed to play sports, but running the length of a basketball court left her gasping for breath. 

By changing her lifestyle, exercising daily, eating healthier and finding a mentor in gym teacher Kyle Snead, Brionna turned her life in a new direction. Now a 17-year-old senior at Kansas City’s Central High School, Brionna has become healthier and found her voice as a leader. She is now captain of her school’s girls’ volleyball team, plays center on the girls’ basketball team and runs track. She has received numerous accolades for her academic performance, is president of the school council and hopes to become a lawyer. 

“I feel like I can have a chance to be actually somebody,” Brionna told a reporter with WDAF-TV when the Fox affiliate featured her in a special report. 

How did she do it? Step by step. Snead, her gym teacher and now her volleyball coach, said he started out slowly. 

“We’ve worked very hard. We started (by saying) you need to walk, just walk. And I taught her to breathe, just take a breath,” Snead said. He also encouraged Brionna to change her eating habits by eating more fruits and vegetables. And she began walking around the school’s track. With time she was able to begin running. 

Brionna’s actions mirror the principles embodied in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to reduce childhood obesity. And they fit the recommendations of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity, which President Obama created in February 2010.

Brionna’s story has become an inspiration to many in Kansas City. She has spoken at community gatherings that highlight local schools’ efforts to provide cafeteria options with higher nutritional values. Today, Brionna is reaping the health and athletic benefits of her hard work. Others, she says, can do the same. 

“At lunch, try to eat a salad, or try eating some fruit,” Brionna said. “I feel great.”

Brionna Williams