60 Parents Complete HSC’s 3-Day Leadership Institute

August 06, 2014

How parents are leading the way for health

This week, 60 parents from across Chicago concluded HSC’s annual Parent Leadership Institute. It was a big week — parents learned about school food, fitness, wellness policies, championing healthy practices, working with their local school councils and becoming even stronger advocates for school health through basic community organizing.

Every year, this institute is an inspiring and energizing experience hosted by Parents United for Healthy Schools, HSC’s parent-led coalition leading the way for healthy changes at CPS schools. But this year is particularly special, as Parents United celebrates its 10th anniversary. That’s right — for a decade, parents have been coming together with educators and community leaders to advocate for healthy school environments at individual schools and across the district.

The coalition was born out of an alarming need for action. Childhood obesity rates, asthma and other health-related issues were spiking in low-income communities of color. Ten years later, the conditions that inspired PUHS still exist. We haven’t finished this battle, by a long stretch. But much progress has been made:

  • Physical Education
    In the 2014-2015 school year, daily physical education will return to all Chicago Public Schools, increasing exercise and teaching healthy habits to the district’s 400,000 students. Parents were instrumental in this achievement, collecting 7,000 parent signatures in support of the effort to bring back PE.
     
  • Recess
    In the 2012-13 school year, recess returned to all elementary schools in Chicago Public Schools, increasing the daily physical activity of more than 230,000 students. This followed years of parent advocacy that included gathering more than 4,000 signatures in support of recess.
     
  • Breakfast in the Classroom
    Chicago Public Schools brought the Breakfast in the Classroom program to all elementary schools, ensuring that the city’s young students are able to start their day with a healthy meal. Parent leaders have been instrumental in championing this program at individual schools and at the district level.
     
  • Wellness Teams
    Parent leaders have formed more than 60 active school wellness teams in schools across Chicago. Through these teams, parents are making health-promoting changes for food and fitness at the school level and helping shape policy at the district level.

This week’s institute continued building the foundation for future advocacy. It equipped new parents with the knowledge and skills to join their peers in giving all students the chance to be healthy and ready to learn. And it put parents and community leaders in the same room, sharing their vision and goals for the future.

Here’s to many more decades, Parents United!