This fall, we’re celebrating 10 years of Parents United for Healthy Schools. For the past decade, Parents United has been a leading force in creating healthy school environments through organized parent leadership. This parent-led movement advocates to create a better future for all Chicago children by working together with schools to create healthy environments that support student learning. In this blog series, we’re revisiting some of the successes and milestones of this movement.
When we held the first Principals’ Breakfast back in February 2007, McCormick Elementary School Principal Flavia Hernandez was in attendance. She was one of the first principals involved with Parents United for Healthy Schools, and has been an advocate for student health and wellness her entire career. At our 2013 Principals’ Breakfast, Hernandez received the Recess Hero Award for her instrumental role in bringing recess back to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) elementary schools.
Hernandez is just one of the amazing CPS principals we’ve been able to work with over the past 10 years, and the Principals’ Breakfast is one way we engage them. We organized that first Principals’ Breakfast as CPS was rolling out new wellness policies. There was no real mechanism at the time for making an announcement and informing parents about what these policies were, why they were important and how parents could work together with principals to support implementation. The idea of holding a breakfast stemmed from a discussion between parents and principals and the belief that by bringing principals together, we could inform them about the new wellness policy and the role that parents would play.
That event was the first forum where we talked about the wellness policy with principals—how far we’ve come in 10 years! Principals are so important to ensuring schools support student health and wellness by implementing the strong elements contained in the district’s wellness policy.
Since then, the annual breakfast has served as an opportunity to introduce and reinforce strategies for making schools healthier places. Going strong after 10 years, this annual event brings together parents and principals who participate in Parents United for Healthy Schools and principals whose schools participate in our Fit to Learn professional development program or our Space to Grow schoolyard transformation program.
Since the first rally in 2006, Parents United has advocated for the return of recess, championed Breakfast in the Classroom, collected signatures in support of daily physical education and pioneered the parent-led school wellness team model. We’ll revisit many of these accomplishments in future blogs in this series.