Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cookies & Spinach? April's Not Foolin'

 Go to Staten Island 10 years in the past, and you might see an 11-year-old April Castillo, nose buried in A Wrinkle in Time, with a perpetual smile on her face. 

Or maybe she would be writing one of her four young adult novels and obsessing over “Fl!p,” a 
since-retired section of the Staten Island Advance.

She could likely be doing any of these things, but there is one thing Castillo at 11 would not be doing: running.

April Castillo was born three months premature, which resulted in many balance and motor skill issues and 14 years of physical therapy.

“I would fall off of chairs; I would fall down stairs,” Castillo said. “I couldn’t play sports or run with other kids.”

But once she got stronger and advanced through physical therapy, she improved. 

“I went to my local middle school,” she said. “My classroom was on the third floor. [When walking] with a big backpack, it was like strength-training boot camp for me.”

Her passion for health blossomed during these formidable years while she was healing.

“I was always obsessed with the idea of health,” Castillo said. “It was very idealized to me, to be completely healthy.”

After finishing physical therapy, Castillo played for her Staten Island high school’s varsity tennis and lacrosse teams and has run two half-marathons. Now interning at Woman’s Day, Castillo has a chance to educate other women about health and fitness.

“It’s like sitting down with a close friend that’s telling you all these cool new things,” she said. “With health and fitness, it’s more a lifestyle than something you pick up and read, at least for me.”

It seems as though Castillo embraced this lifestyle wholeheartedly. Miriam Ward lived with Castillo last year at SUNY New Paltz, where the two attend college.

“It would always make me feel terrible to exit my suite and see April coming back from a 5-mile run,” Ward said. “She’s always such a go-getter in everything.”

You might simply know April Castillo as the girl who enjoys both cookies and spinach, “but not simultaneously.” At least, that’s all you would know after reading the ASME directory.

“My mom made fun of me for that line,” Castillo said. “My personal philosophy is to be healthy, but not too healthy. Don’t take yourself too seriously and do what’s good for you mentally and physically.”

Although it seems that health and fitness are Castillo’s biggest passions, they’re just part of what has prepared her for this summer’s opportunity.

“My sophomore year, I was homeschooled and my parents and I traveled around and did some volunteer work,” Castillo said. “We lived in the Philippines for a month and worked with the Tropical Disease Foundation.”

While there, Castillo worked on a media kit, wrote bios of important members of the organization and copy-edited booklets translated from Tagalog, a local language.

After traveling to Thailand, Hong Kong, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Ireland and Scotland with her parents, Castillo is happy to be in New York City once again.

“Before this summer, I only came [to Manhattan] for day trips,” she said. “I feel like I belong here more than I ever belonged on Staten Island.”

With her best friend, boyfriend and family not too far away, Castillo seems content.

“I feel like I’m in good company,” Castillo said.  

By Sara Gentzler, Creighton University, Parents
Edited by Kelsey Mckinney, The University of Texas at Austin, Reader's Digest

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