Administrator Support is Essential to Create Healthier Out-of-School Time Environments
“Students perform better and are happier when they are healthy. Afterschool programs can provide a community to instill these habits in kids,” said Skyler Quintero, program director of the New Orleans College Prep afterschool program. Three New Orleans sites (Crocker, Cohen and Sylvanie Williams College Prep schools) are currently working with Healthier Generation’s Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative to empower their staff to serve healthier options and find ways to increase physical activity for kids during out-of-school time.
Administrators like Skyler play an essential role in transforming these environments. Staff look to administrators to set priorities and allocate limited time and resources accordingly. By being a strong advocate for health during out-of-school time, Skyler is setting her staff, and the kids they serve up, for long-term success.
For Skyler, this mission is personal. “I like that this partnership focuses on kids learning healthy habits early on. I realize now that if someone had handed me an apple instead of a bag of chips when I was a kid, I’d probably have much better eating habits today,” she said. “Exposing kids to healthy options early on enables them to make better choices in the future.”
New Orleans College Prep sites have found many ways to infuse health and wellness into afterschool time. Each program requires at least 20 minutes of active free play to complement time spent on tutoring or homework after school. The sites offer a variety of ways to be active, including lacrosse, track, soccer, baseball, football, volleyball and basketball. And every child is encouraged to participate in at least one athletic program.
To reinforce the schools’ wellness policy that applies during the school day, vending machines are turned off during programming to encourage elementary and middle school students to eat the healthy options provided by the site, rather than packaged snacks. Skyler added, “We have been pushing for kids to eat more fruit during the program time.”
“Working with the Healthy Out-of-School Time Initiative has made me more aware of what we feed our kids, the kinds of snacks they bring on field trips, and how active they are while they’re in our care,” said Skyler. “I’m thinking a lot more about the foods that we serve kids, and the role I can play to change that.”