Why Wellness Champions Are So Important
November 07, 2016
In Chicago Public Schools, the school’s wellness champion, a staff person charged with helping the school meet the requirements of the district’s wellness policy, is key not only to help the school stay on track but to also motivate and inspire the entire school team to buy into the health-promoting changes. One of the ways the Office of Student Health and Wellness (OSHW) has supported schools has been through the creation of a Wellness Champion Leadership Council. This group meets monthly to discuss best practices, successes and challenges in regards to implementing the district’s wellness policy.
One of those wellness champions asked to join the district group was Charles Beavers, a special education teacher at Kozminski Elementary Community Academy in Hyde Park. Kozminski earned the healthy school certification in 2014, which means the school has met the health-promoting provisions outlined in the district’s wellness policy.
Beavers says the group has been crucial because as a wellness champion leader, he can reach out and provide advice and resources to a wellness champion at a school that might be struggling. One of the most challenging aspects of the policy to implement has been healthy fundraising and celebrations. He’s been able to give other wellness champions alternatives to candy, such as pencils, crayons and reward kits.
But the group has also inspired him. At one meeting, a wellness champion from the north side was talking about a bike day he had done at his school, and Beavers was motivated to start one at his school. It’s been so popular that the school now hosts one in the fall and one in the spring to accommodate all the students that want to participate.
Students bring their bikes in the morning or the day before. During the middle of the school day, students and chaperones ride a few miles to a wildlife sanctuary, where they have a picnic lunch. After lunch, the students ride back to the school. The route is primarily along the lakefront path, but the school receives support from the University of Chicago Police Department to ensure the path is clear and the students are safe.
The Council ensures the sharing of practices so the district can better support wellness champions and their schools in implementing the policies.