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And the Winner Is…

Catherine is a senior communications professional helping social change organizations tell their story in powerful ways. She has expertise in public health, environmental stewardship, philanthropy and education. Follow her on Twitter @CatBrozena

Twenty-three Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools earned a spot on the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s 2019 list of America’s Healthiest Schools.

Garden clubs. Family fun runs. Healthy meals and snacks. More physical activity during class time.

These are just a few of the practices embraced by the winning schools that made this year’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools. The list, published annually by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, honors schools that have prioritized health through improvements they’ve made to their meal and snack programs, physical activity offerings, school fundraisers, staff and student well-being programs, and overall school environment.

Twenty-three of this year’s awardees are schools that Kaiser Permanente works in close collaboration with, alongside our partners at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

In all, a total of 355 schools from around the country were named to this year’s list, achieving gold, silver, or bronze award status based on the number of best practices in children’s health that they implemented. Among this year’s winners, 77% are Title I schools serving high-need student populations. Their achievements are a testament to the dedication of students, school employees, and families who believe in and work together toward the greater health of their school community.

Going for the gold

Wells Middle School color run
Students and staff take part in a Color Run at Wells Middle School.

Wells Middle School in Alvord School District (in Riverside, California) is no stranger to winning America’s Healthiest School awards year after year. This year, the school community again brought home the gold medal for their outstanding commitment to building a culture of health wherever the opportunity presented itself.

The school has embraced healthy foods and snacks, wholly eliminating unhealthy snack options from the campus as well as from after-school fundraisers. Staff and teachers are encouraged to take physical activity breaks during the day, take advantage of healthy food options made available to them, and manage stress through self-care practices. The school has hosted nutrition classes for families to reinforce healthy eating at home as well as at school. And, school fundraising efforts focus on involvement of the whole family, including fun events like the Color Run where participants engaged in distance races and celebrated their achievements by throwing colored powder on each other.

Wells Middle School parent nutrition class
Parent nutrition class at Wells Middle School.

Karin Ribaudo, principal at Wells Middle School (who fondly remembers having students throw color on her during the Color Run), says that many of the students who attend Wells Middle School come from underserved neighborhoods surrounding the school, which puts their health at risk.

“By focusing on health and wellness in alignment with academic success, we are developing the whole child and empowering families to break the cycle of poverty through holistic wellness.”

In the silver spotlight

Carson Elementary School in San Diego took home a silver award this year for its outstanding efforts to create and sustain a healthy school environment. The school prioritizes physical education and activity as being critical to the overall health of its young students.

“We believe in full-body wellness,” explained Carson’s principal, Courtney Young. “Without a healthy body and the knowledge to maintain health and wellness, the path of academia and overall success is undeniably jeopardized.”

School leadership has incorporated an abundance of opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day. They also have a unique partnership with the City of San Diego to make the school grounds available through a joint-use agreement as an option for the surrounding community to enjoy.

Brian Stuetz, the physical education teacher at Carson, works directly with students and trains fellow classroom teachers in ways to incorporate more moderate to vigorous physical activity into the school day.

“I believe that physical activity boosts cognitive function, social interaction, and self-esteem. Children are given the opportunity to be active in class. We work on skills such as sharing, taking turns, and improving overall health, along with skills such as dribbling, kicking, and striking.”

Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools celebrates all the schools that made this year’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools and champions their dedication to health. We especially would like to lift up these schools with which we’ve been privileged to partner:

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To join the celebration of America’s Healthiest Schools on social media, follow #HealthiestSchools.

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