Excellence in School Wellness Awards to 4 City Connects Boston Schools

Last month, Boston Public Schools (BPS) bestowed Excellence in School Wellness Awards to 13 schools, four of which were City Connects schools. Congratulations to the Edison K-8, JFK Elementary, Quincy Elementary, and Trotter Elementary schools, whose innovations promoting student health and wellness were commended at the Sixth Annual BPS Health and Wellness Summit!

“Collectively, these schools demonstrated innovative efforts in creating connections to improve the school environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said [BPS Superintendent]  Dr. Johnson. “For a school to be successful in its mission to provide an education for all students, it must prioritize their physical, mental, and emotional health.”

Health is one of the four domains central to City Connects (along with academics, social/emotional, and family). With the support of the New Balance Foundation, our School Site Coordinators lead school-based health and wellness initiatives that teach students how to make healthy choices about nutrition, exercise, and social relationships. The New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness program increases students’ health literacy, resulting in better behavior, work habits, and effort in the classroom. These skills help students combat critical issues like obesity and bullying—both in and out of the classroom. In short, healthier students are better students.

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Two City Connects Schools Commended for Promoting Student Health

“Healthy Connections” awards were presented to two City Connects schools, the John F. Kennedy and the Josiah Quincy elementary schools,  at the Boston Public Schools (BPS) 5th annual Wellness Summit on May 30. Seven awards were given to schools with innovative approaches to promoting student health and wellness.

“The schools we recognize today have shown innovative, collaborative, and service-oriented approaches to delivering Coordinated School Health to BPS students and families,” said BPS Superintendent Dr. Carol R. Johnson.

The JFK Elementary school’s health and wellness efforts included a range of activities: a Girls on the Run running club partnership with Hill House, Playworks recess activities, yoga instruction, a Winter Walking Club, dance and movement classes with the Boston Arts Project and the Hyde Square Task Force, nutrition lessons from the Martha Eliot Health Center, and a Step It Up walking challenge with Partners HealthCare. Beyond student activities, parents and caregivers were invited to attend weekly meditation and stress management classes and staff participated in Zumba.

In addition to winning a Healthy Connections award, the Quincy Elementary was given one of 10 national “Praiseworthy Pioneer” grants from the Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP). ASAP is an initiative of ChildObesity180, an organization at Tufts University committed to facilitating cross-sector collaboration to reverse the trend of childhood obesity within one generation’s time. ASAP seeks to increase quality physical activity in schools to promote healthy, active living and to evoke the beneficial behavioral and academic outcomes that follow. The $2,500 Praiseworthy Pioneer grants were given to support physical activity programming in schools.

“We are honored to be recognized. The award  will help support the Quincy’s Jammin’ Minutes, Playworks, GoKidsGo, and Sports and Scholars physical activity programs,” said Pauline Yee, a physical education teacher at the Quincy.

In City Connects, health is one the four domains of student strengths and needs that we examine, because healthy students are better able to learn and thrive in school. Congratulations to the JFK and the Quincy schools on these awards!

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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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