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Graduate students furthering education at Osceola Community Hospital

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Nine graduate students are learning about the science of physical education and exercise in an unusual place this year: they are taking classes at the Osceola Community Hospital.

SIBLEY, Iowa -- Nine graduate students are learning about the science of physical education and exercise in an unusual place this year: they are taking classes at the Osceola Community Hospital.

After an intense 12 to 14 months of coursework, the students will get master's degrees in physical education, with an exercise science focus.

The hospital, the University of Northern Iowa, and the Sibley-Ocheyedan schools are partnering together to offer the innovative Polar Scholar program.

"We had nine graduate students who totally trusted us," hospital CEO Janet Dykstra said. "We had less than 90 days to get it together here."

But they did get it together, and began offering the program for the 2006-2007 school year instead of waiting until 2007-2008.

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"It's something I've always been interested in, just the new technology and cutting-edge everything," said student Carrilee Acor, 22.

The program is getting financial and equipment help from Polar Electro, a company that sells heart-rate monitors, but they're also getting plenty of help from community organizations including Kiwanis and the Rotary Club.

Students pay about $12,000 for the entire course of study.

Most of the faculty comes from the University of Northern Iowa, sometimes commuting four hours to teach a class half that length of time.

One of the things Dykstra thinks is important about the new program is its emphasis on technology and cutting-edge equipment that Polar has provided. The equipment mirrors what students will find in wellness centers elsewhere.

The graduate students also spend some time working in the community as part of the program. Some participate in "Turn up the HEET," an after-school grade school program with a focus on "Healthy Eating and Exercise Training."

"Our kids need to be fitter," said graduate student Jobie Marco, 38. "There's room for improvement of their hearts."

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