November 3, 2017

What a Healthy School Means to Me

A Healthier Generation student All-Star shares what it means to attend a healthy school

I’m in school for eight hours a day, five days per week, for about ten months each year — that’s a gigantic portion of my life.

So it should come as no surprise that I want to be at a school that enables me to thrive and succeed. A school that allows me to work and participate to my full potential. A school that fosters creativity as well as clear and critical thinking. With oodles of research showing a direct relationship between healthy eating habits, regular exercise and improved focus and test scores, it makes perfect sense that a healthy school leads to a smart school (and smarter students!).

“Smart,” to me, goes far beyond GPAs and SAT scores;

Serving nutritious foods, offering regular physical activity and improving health education into the school system is a no-brainer…. it yields better grades, clearer thinking, more energy and healthier insides for both the short and long term. Who can argue with that payoff? It’s an obvious grand slam.

But healthy changes take time. While implementing Healthier Generation’s program into my own school, I learned two big lessons:

First, improving the atmosphere and curriculum is not just a job for the teachers and principals. Students with passion and persistence can also help to get the job done.

Second, while I had grand plans of change, the smaller (and super fun) activities had the most meaningful impact. I now realize that creating a healthy environment does not necessarily mean rejiggering the entire cafeteria spread (bye bye pizza and hello broccoli! Um, that’s never going to happen) or having mandatory gym class for 2 hours every day (“Can’t we please swap out math class for dodge ball?!?” Haha). Instead, I went small…which went over big.

At my local elementary school, I started a Cooking with Healthstyle feature, and encouraged kids to submit healthy recipes that they make at home with their parents for the school newsletter and eblasts. I also created something called “Freaky-Food-Fact-Friday,” Every Friday the entire elementary school hears a bizarre and freakish piece of trivia over the loudspeaker announcements. For example, my first fact was “The fear of vegetables is called Lachanophobia.” It initiated giggles and conversation, and had the entire school talking about vegetables (and creating veggie challenges!) all afternoon. Also, I helped one of the physical education teachers start an afterschool program for K-2nd grade to motivate kids to get active after class time.

As an aspiring young health advocate, it’s been a privilege and honor to implement the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program within my school and community. I know firsthand that my school district has benefited tremendously. I’ve benefited even more. Becoming an ambassador and spreading a wealth of health has been an extraordinary experience. It’s beyond rewarding to know that I’m helping to enhance the lives of countless families, and hope to continue this work throughout my college career.