City Connects School Wins Health Award

Alliance for a Healthier GenerationThe John F. Kennedy elementary school in Jamaica Plain, a City Connects school, is being honored by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for fighting childhood obesity. The Alliance, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, has recognized the JFK school for transforming its campus into a healthier place for students and staff.

To earn this award, the JFK revamped its meals service and physical activity programs to meet or exceeded stringent standards set by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, which provides expert advice and free resources to more than 12,000 schools nationwide to help them reverse the national trend in childhood obesity. Schools are eligible for Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum National Recognition Awards based on their level of achievement. The JFK school, a Bronze National Recognition Award winner, joins 274 other schools that are receiving this honor for their healthy achievements.

Rachel Garcia, the City Connects health coordinator at the JFK,  said that as a turnaround school, this milestone is particularly important. The school set out to achieve a National Recognition Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, requiring definite changes in the school schedule and the attitudes about increasing physical activity for students.

“With 70% new staff and a new principal, there is a reinvigorated quest for change. The principal, Waleska Landing-Rivera, was very enthusiastic and supportive in establishing a School Wellness Council to improve the overall health and wellness of our students and staff. For instance, Mrs. Landing-Rivera made recess a mandatory daily occurrence for at least 20 minutes, and also granted a second daily recess to kindergarten and first graders. Physical Education was also added to each student’s schedule at least once a week for 50 minutes. Many classes have P.E. twice a week.

Additionally, the City Connects/New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness Curriculum brought in not only content but also daily classroom movement breaks and physical activity exercise games. For next year, we plan to have daily morning Jammin’ Minutes for the whole school to complete after breakfast, which will increase the physical activity movement for every student. We are proud of our Bronze Level accomplishment and next year we will try for Silver!”

Two other Boston schools were recognized at a the June 13 awards ceremony in Little Rock, Arkansas. In response to this award, which comes on the heels of a new health and wellness district-wide  initiative, Boston Public Schools superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson said:

“We are working aggressively to close access and achievement gaps for our students, but for us to be successful in that endeavor we must have healthy, engaged students. We know that if our students are eating right and staying active they will be more engaged in the classroom. We take pride in the staff at these schools who are going the extra mile for our students.”

Last year, seven BPS schools were recognized, including two City Connects schools, the Quincy and Mission Hill. Congratulations to the JFK and this year’s winning schools!

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Community Partner Breakfast: A Focus on Health & Wellness

Today, City Connects hosted our annual spring gathering of community partners. The meeting, “Creating Dynamic School Partnerships to Increase the Health and Wellness of Students,” featured a panel discussion with (pictured left to right) Dr. Linda Grant, medical director of Boston Public Schools (BPS); Jill Carter, executive director, Health and Wellness at BPS; Simon Ho, principal of the Josiah Quincy School; and Pat DiNatale, director of new practice for City Connects.

Panelists discussed the need to coordinate services and fully integrate health into education to better serve students holistically. Dr. Grant emphasized the crucial role school nurses play in supporting the health of individual students while simultaneously developing knowledge of school-wide health concerns. Jill Carter gave insight into the efforts of the newly formed BPS Office of Health and Wellness and suggested that community partners establish relationships with “Wellness Champions” in the schools they serve. Simon Ho shared the steps his school took to promote student health and wellness that resulted in a Bronze Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Pat DiNatale discussed the New Balance Foundation Health and Wellness curriculum piloted this year by City Connects and gave thanks to all of the partners with whom City Connects works to promote healthy development of students.

City Connects believes that health is a crucial component to student support–click here to learn more about our philosophy.