The weight-loss boarding school where students can shed nearly 100lbs A TERMJason, 16, who started at academy in September lost 93lbs by this ChristmasPupils have counselling and fitness and cookery classes alongside normal lessonsSlimming school is latest weapon in U.S battles against obesity

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UPDATED:

09:44 GMT, 25 December 2012

When Jason Alexander started boarding school in September he weighed a massive 23st. /12/25/article-2253039-169DFE12000005DC-235_634x567.jpg” width=”634″ height=”567″ alt=”Slim: Debbie Alexander checks out her son Jason's baggy-fitting jeans after he returned from a four-month stay at a weight-loss boarding school ” class=”blkBorder” />

Biggest loser: Debbie Alexander checks out her son Jason's baggy-fitting jeans. He lost the most weight out of the 12 sent from his school district

The MindStream Academy in Bluffton

The MindStream Academy in Bluffton: The school provides counselling alongside lessons

Last term Jason's Missouri school district sent 12 students there – the youngest of whom was 11. Together they lost a combined weight of 54st.

Each student had a sad story of how the
pounds had piled on. Jason’s weight shot up after his father’s death when he was nine, jeopardising his dream of joining the military. Like many
who are overweight, he became easily winded and his knees hurt.

He said he’s now 40 pounds from
being able to qualify military service and plans to join a training
group to help him shed the rest of the weight.

Relatives and friends said the school had given the children confidence.

Jason’s mother, Debbie Alexander,
said her son who had battled a speech impediment and been slow to smile
was now grinning broadly.

'I feel amazing,' Jason agreed.

Jason shows off a picture of himself before he left for the boarding school

What a difference a a term makes: Jason shows off a picture of himself before he left for the boarding school. He now weighs 16st 3lbs

Jason talks with his delighted sister Katie, left, after arriving back at Kansas City airport

Family support: Jason talks with his delighted sister Katie, left, after arriving back at Kansas City airport

Jason shed
weight so quickly that he struggled to find clothes. His jeans, which he
bought from another classmate, hung loose around him, cinched with a
belt to keep them from falling off.

'I can’t believe I got to that
point. I can’t believe I got that big,' he said.

The district envisions Jason and the
other participants becoming health ambassadors in their schools, perhaps
speaking to groups or working one-on-one with classmates who are
struggling with their weight.

Experts say it’s hard for
anyone to maintain weight-loss if their families don’t also develop good
eating and exercise habits. So while the children were away their parents met
monthly with MindStream’s clinical director in Independence to learn how
to help their children upon their return.

Jason's family have cleansed
the kitchen of junk food, made space for a treadmill and stocked up on
healthy items like ground turkey to help him continue his diet.

The school district, its foundation and the students’ families worked together to pay about half of the usual $28,500-per-semester (17,500) tuition at the academy. The rest was paid by a foundation associated with the academy and other donors.

Sarah Stone, the director of programming at MindStream, said it hopes to engage other school districts in similar partnerships in the future.

'It is to all of our best interest for these kids to be able to realize their best potential,' she said.