Happy Birthday, Healthy Schools Campaign!

February 07, 2008

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Founding Executive Director

This week marks the sixth anniversary of a Healthy Schools Summit that was organized by Generation Green (the organization that I was working for six years ago), Safer Pest Control Project, and Citizen Action/Illinois. (HSC Board member Lynda DeLaforgue is also Co-Director of Citizen Action/Illinois – she has been here from the beginning!)

Two hundred people from 75 organizations plus a group of high school students attended the summit.  Speakers included Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Congressman Danny Davis, Ron Burke (now Deputy Director at Illinois EPA) and Dr. Vicky Persky. 

This event was followed by a similar event in Springfield and eventually gave birth to the Healthy Schools Campaign.   

It’s interesting to reflect on the ways that our organization continues to be shaped by this powerful event six years ago:

Student participation:  A group of Chicago public high school students attended the summit and provided dramatic first-hand testimony to some of the conditions they face.  In the last year, we have been able to reengage with students through the Cooking up Change healthy cooking contest. Just last week, we celebrated with culinary students at Chicago Vocational Career Academy when the healthy meal they designed was served in high school cafeterias throughout Chicago Public Schools.

Green Cleaning:  Kim Hall from Rochester Midland (now a sponsoring company of our Quick & Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools) attended the summit.  She introduced me to the concept of green cleaning and introduced me to Steve Ashkin. Steve is now the author of our Quick and Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools.

Latino Community Participation:  Idida Perez, the executive director of West Town Leadership United and our current partner on the Partnership to Reduce Disparities in Asthma and Obesity in Latino Schools, attended the summit.  When the Spanish-language TV station Univision covered the event, Idida became our on-the-spot media spokesperson. Our work in the Latino community continues to expand, particularly through the Parents United for Healthy Schools / Padres Unidos Para Escuelas Saludables coalition. Univision’s Enrique Rodriguez has been a wonderful supporter of our work, speaking at our Parents’ Rally for Healthy Schools and serving as master of ceremonies at our annual benefit, Cooking up Change.

Chicago Community Trust:  Chicago Community Trust gave a grant to help us organize the summit that led to HSC’s creation. Ada Mary Gugenheim attended the event and has been a strong supporter ever since.

On a personal level, the last six years have been very exciting and rewarding.  I feel very blessed with all of the friends and colleagues that I have made over the last six years.  I look forward to working with all of you as we continue to work toward making meaningful change.