Parent Leader Karina Macedo Shares Her Perspective on Go for the Gold

July 11, 2013

A parent reflects on Go for the Gold’s successes in her school.

The parent-driven wellness team at Nathanael Greene Elementary School in Chicago’s McKinley Park neighborhood started small. One woman began attending meetings to ask the principal questions, meet with principal and learn more about how parents could get involved with making Greene a healthier place.

Fast-forward to 2013. Greene Elementary is now a model for school health and wellness, so much so that in April of 2013, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin visited the school to view health-related activities and programs. Her first stop on the tour was meeting with the leaders of Greene’s dedicated parent-led wellness team, including Karina Macedo, who got involved with the wellness team after attending an after-school fitness class for parents at the school.

“I enjoyed that, so I joined the wellness team,” she says. “After I was on the wellness team, I saw how necessary it is to be involved in the school. I wanted to involve more parents in the campaign.”

Greene has seen tremendous changes over the past several years, thanks to a commitment to encouraging a healthy school environment on all fronts: parents, the teachers, school staff, school administrators and community partners. Macedo was involved in Greene’s application for HealthierUS School Challenge certification through Go for the Gold, and through the application process, the parents and the school began working on key goals with health  and wellness.

And Macedo is happy with the changes that she has seen CPS, school administrators, teachers and dining staff make. During meals, students have more whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Students have more time for PE and recess, with a recess coordinator who helps students take full advantage of recess time. Community partners such as Urban Initiatives have come in to lead recess and physical activity for students. And for nutrition education, a core component of the HealthierUS School Challenge standards, Principal Michael Heidkamp worked with the University of Illinois-Chicago to provide free nutrition education for students, while other community partners, such as Common Threads, provided healthy cooking classes.

Macedo says parents want to have healthy families and help make healthy changes for their children, and involving parents has been one of the most important pillars of Greene’s Go for the Gold success. Everyone plays a role in making healthy changes at Greene. Parents volunteer with nutrition education in the classroom, with nutrition education, with exercise and with recess.

Where boxes of chocolate bars once ruled the halls during school fundraisers, parents now put on healthy fundraisers. The parent wellness team even put together a health fair, helping extend the values of Go for the Gold to homes and community spaces as well. Macedo says every parent does his or her part — she even did her part by ordering a new nutrition-themed poster for the cafeteria and bringing it to the school herself.

“It’s a culture now,” Macedo says. “I know it’s something that we have to work on, but the positive situation is that now everyone is on board. The principals, the teachers, the parents, the volunteers, everyone has the same goals. We are a big group, and we can make changes together.”

In 2011, Greene Elementary was awarded Gold certification through the HealthierUS School Challenge, and Macedo was honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House as a champion for healthy schools.

“When we won the Gold, we had the banner, we saw that we were Healthy School Certified and we were so excited,” Macedo says. “I am so happy that I got to go to the White House, but it wasn’t just me who won. We are all winners. We are all winners because we have what we want to have for our children.”

Congratulations to Greene Elementary for all of its success with Go for the Gold! 

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