Class project turns into life-altering experience - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Class project turns into life-altering experience

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Franklin Community High School freshman Eric Ekis, who weighs close to 500 pounds, works out on a stationary bike as part of an exercise regimen. (Source: WISH/CBS) Franklin Community High School freshman Eric Ekis, who weighs close to 500 pounds, works out on a stationary bike as part of an exercise regimen. (Source: WISH/CBS)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/CBS) - Two high school seniors began a class project to help a 500-pound freshman get healthy, and it's literally changing his life one step at a time.

Kevin Stahl and Grace Siebert are in the "innovation class" at Franklin Community High School. Stahl was looking for an opportunity to help someone, and his teacher recommended Eric Ekis, a student who lost his father a couple of years ago and has struggled ever since.

"It started out as just working with Eric and just to kind of help him with his grades and his life and try to get his weight down some, and it's evolved since then," Stahl said.

As part of this innovation project, the two now walk the high school halls together. It was just a few students walking at first, but teacher Lesleigh Groce said other students who want to make healthy changes have joined in.

"It's been really cool to see him inspire other kids," Groce said.

Eric has lost 20 pounds and sees more than physical differences. He now wants to use his story to inspire others, so he's vlogging about his journey.

"I've actually felt great," he said. "In the beginning I was really depressed, and it's just been so exciting for me. I feel a whole lot better than I used to. I'm not alone in this, there are so many other kids out there like me."

Innovation became inspiration and a link between unlikely friends, which is changing all their lives.

"These are relationships that I have in my life now," Siebert said. "I don't look at it as a project anymore. I just look at it as my friends."

Jared Fogle, the Subway spokesman, has reached out to the school and said he wants to help Eric with his weight loss journey.

Copyright 2014 WISH via CBS. All rights reserved.

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