Being healthy pays off: Last weekend, representatives from three New Haven public schools took a trip to Washington, D.C., to be honored for their schools’ progress in student health and wellness.
Three local schools were among the 328 selected as “America’s Healthiest Schools” in 2016 from over 30,000 currently enrolled in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. East Rock Community Magnet School and King-Robinson Interdistrict Magnet School were both recognized as silver-medal schools and Benjamin Jepson Magnet School was awarded a bronze medal.
Schools were judged based on factors such as health education, school health and safety policies and nutrition services. Though 1,407 schools in Connecticut are part of the program, no other schools in the state were selected for recognition.
“We are committed to helping all of our students reach their highest potential,” East Rock Principal Peggy Pelley said in a statement. “We know that healthy children will learn, achieve and rise to a bright future; therefore, we are working diligently to encourage lifelong healthy habits.”
According to Alliance spokeswoman Megan Walcek, the chosen schools must meet criteria for a healthy school environment as outlined in the organization’s “Healthy School Program Framework of Best Practices.” The document outlines nutrition standards for food offered at schools, best practices for health-education curricula, physical-activity programs and strategies for community involvement.
For example, bronze-medal schools must cover specific topics on physical activity, such as the different phases of an exercise session — warm up, workout and cool down — as well as lessons on overcoming barriers to physical activity. Becoming a silver school requires meeting all standards of a bronze school in addition to other requirements, such as prohibiting the school from using physical activity as a form of punishment, keeping students active for at least 50 percent of physical-education class time and prohibiting the use of food as either a reward or punishment.
Walcek explained recognition is given to schools that improve their environments in accordance with the Alliance’s standards over the course of the year.
East Rock’s push for better student health was led in part by physical-education teacher Mary Glickman, according to Walcek. The school created an after-school workout program this past school year, and has encouraged family members to get involved in students’ fitness and health. The school is also pushing students to try new, healthy foods at lunch by rewarding them with “I tried it!” stickers, according to a Alliance press release on East Rock.
Ward 8 Alder Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, chair of the Board of Alder’s Education Committee, said the announcement rewards the hard work of NHPS leaders, students, parents and stakeholders.
“It’s an exciting announcement,” he said.
The Alliance’s 2016 Leaders Summit on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the nation’s capital featured speakers from a plethora of companies, nonprofits and government organizations including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Nike, Inc.