Sutton Middle School and Warren T. Jackson Elementary became the third and fourth schools in APS to earn bronze medal National Recognition Awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. They were two of only 11 Georgia schools to be so honored. The medals are awarded to schools for their wellness efforts, from nutrition to exercise. The schools joined Morningside Elementary and Burgess-Peterson Academy, which won bronze medals last year. The Alliance is a partnership between the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association.
Sutton Principal Audrey Sofianos pointed to two major factors in winning the award: forming a wellness committee that included students, and the leadership of Sutton Academic Dean Michelle Bouldin. The school held a Friday “dance day” for a couple minutes at the end of the announcements to spotlight the school’s commitment to fitness. Sutton also held Wellness Days in which children participated in active, healthy movement-oriented activities, such as yoga and hip-hop dance. The school also featured classes that focused on nutrition and positive mental health and attitude.
“The students and staff loved these special days at the end of the year, and I know they will become a part of our yearly calendar,” Sofianos said. “Everyone was involved, including our art teacher, Doug Smith. Students created wellness-inspired art, with even one piece selected for a school poster and T-shirt. Sofianos emphasized the collaborative aspects of this effort, and how teamwork made the award happen. “With the team focusing the entire school community, we were able to do so much for our students, parents, and staff,” Sofianos said. “Parents and teachers have realized that we must explicitly teach health and wellness habits, and pay attention to that for ourselves. Our parents are continuing the conversation even this summer, with meetings involving our school cafeteria food supplier and APS system nutrition experts to provide even healthier lunches for our students next year.”
Jackson Elementary Principal Dr. Lorraine Reich pointed to the school’s coming to a consensus on the types of snacks consumed and how the school used food to reward students as big turning points in its wellness efforts. Whereas the school previously provided cupcakes and pizza to celebrate birthdays, the school worked hard to use non-food items as rewards and focus on healthy snacks. The school also implemented a staff fitness program and encouraged outdoor play and other activities for students every day. “Our PE teachers made sure that fitness exercises were an integral part of our instructional program and we made walking a cool thing for students to do,” Dr. Reich said. “I think it solidifies our commitment to being a healthier school. Now that we have this recognition, it will be harder to slip back into old habits. Hopefully it will serve as a motivator to continue our focus on health and build on the changes we made to our school last year.”
Reich also singled out SST Coordinator Stacey Carter and parent Sidney Shipps for their leadership in coordinating these efforts. “We are definitely a healthier school today than we were a year ago,” Dr. Reich said. “It is my hope that we will be an even healthier school next year at this time.”