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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City Connects Year in Review: Boston

This week on the blog we’ll be looking at the year in review across our 45 sites in three geographic areas: Boston (public and Catholic schools), Springfield (MA), and Ohio.

City Connects is currently implemented in 17 Boston Public Schools, our original site. Here are some BPS highlights:

  • For the 2012-12 school year, City Connects partnered with its first in-district charter school, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School, and its first public high school, the Quincy Upper School.
  • Across Boston Public Schools, in the 2011-12 school year, City Connects partnered with 250 community agencies to arrange more than 30,000 services and enrichment activities for students.
  • 2012 brought some exciting new findings on the long-term benefits of City Connects for students after they have a City Connects elementary school, including significantly lower rates of chronic absenteeism in middle school and significantly lower rates of school dropout after the age of 16.
  • Results of our 2012 teacher survey in Boston were exceptionally positive, with 95% of teachers reporting satisfaction with City Connects and 95% reporting that they would recommend City Connects to a teacher in another school.
  • City Connects’ New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness curriculum continues to show positive results for children across all four units: nutrition, physical activity, social/emotional wellbeing, and healthy choices.

City Connects in Catholic Schools (CCCS) is currently active in 17 schools in the greater Boston area, as well as one freestanding Early Childcare center. Highlights from CCCS include:

  • In the 2011-12 school year, CCCS  linked students to more than 11,000 services and enrichment activities provided by 100 community agencies.
  • This year, CCCS partnered with a freestanding Early Childcare center for the first time, Catholic Charities’ Nazareth Child Care Center in Jamaica Plain. An Early Childhood adaptation of City Connects is being piloted at this center.
  • Analysis of CCCS’s work with Early Childhood populations (ages 3-7)  suggests that students in Early Childhood programs in City Connects schools show significantly more growth in school readiness over a 3-year period than students in comparison schools.

Check back tomorrow for more “Year in Review” updates!

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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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.

Third-graders Embrace Healthy Lifestyle with “Chop Chop” Magazine

Chop Chop magazineThis month, with the support of the New Balance Foundation, City Connects site coordinators distributed the health-focused kids’ magazine “Chop Chop” to all City Connects third-graders–nearly 1,000 students.

ChopChop is a quarterly food magazine for children and their families aiming to educate kids about how to cook and be nutritionally literate, empower them to actively participate as health partners with their families, and help establish and support better eating habits for a lifetime of good nutrition. The magazine features nutritious, ethnically diverse, and inexpensive recipes, as well as interesting food facts, Q&A’s, and games.

City Connects Health  Coordinator Rachel Garcia reported back after distributing the publication to the third-graders at the JFK school:

I meet with the 3rd grade classes on Friday. They were very excited to get a magazine, and as soon as I handed them out, they wanted to browse through them immediately. I did a quick picture walk through the magazines and they seemed very interested in the different types of content inside. They also loved the illustrations, especially the one of the carrot and pea boxing– it was depicting which had more vitamin content.

For more information:

  • On Twitter, follow Chop Chop magazine @ChopChopMag and New Balance @NewBalance
  • New Report Shows High Rates of Overweight & Obesity in Mass. School Children

    A new report released yesterday by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has some alarming results: in eight school districts across the state, more than 40% of students were overweight or obese.

    The study was conducted by taking the body mass index, or BMI, of students in grades 1, 4, 7, and 10 in select school districts in the 2008-09 academic year. Children are considered overweight if their BMI is between the 85th and 95th percentile for their age and obese if  their BMI is equal to or greater than the 95th percentile.

    The Boston Globe published a chart showing the breakdown by school district. They also reported that “the study, which reflects weight and height measurements for about 110,000 students, for the first time provides data on separate school districts and underscores the role of poverty and affluence in determining weight.” Arlington had the lowest rates of obesity and overweight while Lawrence had the worst; Boston came in 76th out of 80 districts. Eight of the 80 districts had rates of obesity and overweight greater than 40%. For a list of the best and worst ranked districts, see this illustration published in the Globe.

    A unique aspect of the City Connects approach to student support is our emphasis on health and wellness. Children living in high-poverty neighborhoods suffer disproportionately from chronic illness and health risks in addition to obesity, which may negatively impact their academic success. With the longstanding support of the New Balance Foundation, City Connects has been able to include health as a core component of student support, paying particular attention to individual student’s health needs, partnering with community health services and programs, and promoting the healthy development of the entire school.

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    Survey Illuminates Crime, Bullying in Schools

    The National Center for Education Statistics released a report, Student Victimization in U.S. Schools: Results From the 2007 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which offers a wide-ranging view of crime and related victimization in middle and high schools. Of the approximately 5,600 students age 12 through 18 who responded to the survey, about 4.3% reported that they were victims of a crime at school. These students had a higher percentage of:

    • Being the targets of traditional (62%) and electronic (11%) bullying than non-victims (30% and 3%, respectively)
    • Being afraid of attack or harm at school (23%)  than non-victims (4%)
    • Avoiding specific places at school because of fear of attack or harm than non-victims (13% vs. 5%)

    Efforts are underway in Massachusetts to prevent all forms of bullying. This past May, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law legislation that spells out  new anti-bullying measures for teachers, schools, and communities. Also this year, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and  Boston Public Schools began an anti-cyberbullying awareness campaign and launched a website to educate students, families, and teachers. At City Connects, our New Balance Foundation Health and Wellness Curriculum addresses bullying and teaches students skills to prevent bullying in elementary schools.