John M. Sexton Elementary School

Talking about being healthy can only get you so far. But having teachers and staff serve healthy food and encourage recess has a huge impact on students.” 

- Jennifer Velez, Physical Education Teacher and Parent



District: Pinellas County School District
Location: St. Petersburg, Florida
Enrollment: 711 students
Joined Healthy Schools Program: 2009


As the physical education teacher at John M. Sexton, Jennifer Velez has spent a decade teaching kids how to be healthy. But when her own children reached school age, she felt a renewed passion to make it easier for them to make healthier choices while at school, where they spend most of their time away from home. So, she joined the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, and worked with many faculty and students in her school to transform its culture of health. After joining the Program, Jennifer worked with the cafeteria staff to swap sugary beverages and calorie-dense treats for healthier alternatives. She promoted a before-school running club and physical activity breaks to boost student focus in the classroom. And as the wellness council leader, Jennifer helps to organize an annual community wellness night complete with local vendors, healthy snacks and new physical activities like hula hooping and belly dancing for students and their family members. She believes that creating a healthy foundation will have a lasting impact on both the school’s students and her own children: “Our school’s focus has always been on lifelong health. We want kids to see how fun physical activity can be so that they’ll continue to move for the rest of their lives.”

Learn more about how John M. Sexton has worked with the Healthy Schools Program.


Meet Jennifer

Jennifer Velez has been the physical education teacher at John M. Sexton Elementary for the past 10 years. As a mom of five, she has also been an active member of the Parent Teacher Association and is the leader of the school wellness council.