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!

For more information:

Part 2: City Connects on Public School Insights

As a follow up to his recent interview with City Connects’ Executive Director Mary Walsh and Director of Practice Pat DiNatale, Claus von Zastrow of the Learning First Alliance spoke to two people experiencing City Connects in Boston’s schools: Traci Walker Griffith, principal of the Eliot K-8 School, and Kathleen Carlisle, site coordinator at the Mission Hill School. Read about how City Connects is implemented in schools and the impact it has on students and their families:

Helping the Whole Child: A View from Two Schools

City Connects was also recently featured on the Future of Teaching blog as an example of a positive shift that is catching on in the context of school reform.