Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wesley Chapel Elementary School Wins National Recognition

Wesley Chapel Elementary School (WCES) has received the Bronze National Recognition Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for creating a healthier environment for students and staff. WCES has improved the nutrition in its school lunches, promoted physical activity before, during and after school, and focused on stress reduction and relaxation techniques for students and staff, resulting in a healthier, more energetic and more dynamic school population. Nearly one in three children and teens in the United States is obese or overweight. In response to the epidemic, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation – a joint partnership of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation – established the Healthy Schools Program in 2006 to help schools develop and implement policies and practices to promote healthy eating and increase physical activity. The Healthy Schools Program is supported by funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), which has committed $28 million to the program. “We know that healthy students learn better,” said Ginny Ehrlich, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “The Healthy Schools Program takes a comprehensive approach to helping schools create healthier environments by working with them to improve access to healthier foods; increase physical activity opportunities before, during and after school; enhance nutrition education; and establish school employee wellness programs. Through these systemic changes, schools are not only teaching their students the academic skills they need to succeed, but healthy habits for life.” Schools participating in the Healthy Schools Program are eligible to earn bronze, silver, gold or platinum awards based on their range of healthy eating and physical activity programs and policies. The rigorous program criteria – known as the Healthy Schools Program Best Practice Framework – were developed in consultation with a panel of experts, including representatives from the American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RWJF and others. WCES has met these stringent standards, positively impacting healthy eating and physical activity behaviors among students and staff. “This program has helped us to analyze what we’re doing correctly here at the school and what we can do better. The wellness center that we’ve built has been a real morale booster and has brought the staff together,” commented Christopher Gorman, the physical education teacher who spearheaded the project. “Plus, it has supported us to deliver teacher-led P.E. Teachers bring their students here and they work through the stations, changing stations when the music changes. There’s cardio, a punching bag and other exercise equipment. The stations are different every month, so it makes it fun for the kids.” The Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program offers free support to more than 7,800 schools and provides more than 4.8 million students increased opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating. “We are grateful to Chris for leading this effort,” noted John Abernathy, principal of Wesley Chapel Elementary School. “The biggest thing we have been able to demonstrate is how to be a role model for students, because this is not only for students but for adults, too. We received a great response from the community, parents, staff and students. Our school has become immersed in nutrition, exercise and leading a healthy lifestyle,” he added. Any school in the United States can enroll in the Healthy Schools Program and receive free assistance and support in creating a healthier environment. Additionally, any individual who cares about helping a school in his or her community become a healthier place may join the Healthy Schools Network for immediate access to tips and tools to support a healthier school. Find out more at HealthierGeneration.org. For more information, contact: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (813) 794-2306