Kenneth Varner

Senior Community Engagement Manger

About Kenneth

Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, University of Illinois at Chicago

Hobbies: I have been training Capoeira for over ten years. Capoeira is a martial art that was developed by enslaved Africans in Brazil. The story goes that the enslaved Africans used music and dance to disguise their martial art from the “slave masters.” In addition to Capoeira, I get my physical activity fix from biking and dancing. I also spend a good amount of time improving my cooking skills. I’m primarily focused on learning to cook the Panamanian dishes that I grew up eating.

Who are you?

I am the Community Engagement Manager for Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC). My position allows me to work with parents, teachers, students, school administration and community members in adopting practices and policies that enhance health and wellness, with a focus on schools that are part of our Space to Grow program.

What makes your job great?

I believe the saying goes: “Get paid to do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I am doing what I love. My passions include issues on food justice, health and wellness and the lack of amenities and opportunities offered to low-income communities. Working with HSC provides an opportunity for me to make a positive impact on each of these issues.

When did you come to Healthy Schools Campaign?

I started in May 2016. Before coming to HSC I worked as a health coordinator at a school on Chicago’s south side. I implemented health initiatives in the school, provided opportunities for students to acquire glasses and dental work at no cost and functioned as a liaison between the school’s administration and the school-based health center.

Why did you join Healthy Schools Campaign?

I joined HSC because this organization’s vision and mission are greatly aligned with my own. I’m excited to see what I can accomplish with the support of like-minded people.

Where does your motivation come from?

My motivation comes from having grown up in low-income urban neighborhoods. I know what it’s like to be priced out of healthy food options. I know what it means to not go to parks in my neighborhood out of the fear of violence. I’ve chosen hunger over eating an unappetizing school lunch. I cannot stand by and watch while millions of children behind me have to suffer the same indignities. There are plenty of people that make decisions that affect my community without my community’s input. It is my mission to make sure that we are represented, and represented well.