DCPS staff travels to Washington D.C. to receive wellness award


Courtesy Photo

The six schools representing Nebraska accept their awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Both DCHS and Bellwood Attendance Center won bronze and DCES won silver.

Maya P., Co-Editor

David City Public Schools was recognized nationally for exemplary promotion of student nutrition and wellness on Sept. 12. DCPS representatives school nurse Lori Palik, David City Elementary fifth grade teacher Shelly Mayo, and Bellwood Attendance Center first grade teacher Shelly Eickmeier traveled to the nation’s capital for the ceremony.

The schools were among 250 schools nationwide to receive awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Nebraska sent six schools in all. At the award ceremony, former President Bill Clinton addressed the many programs and activities being installed in schools across the country. First Lady Michelle Obama appeared later via teleconference.

This was DCPS’s second trip to accept an award after going to Little Rock, Arkansas in 2012. To qualify, the schools created and improved several programs and activities to fight obesity. For example, the schools have changed how classroom parties are handled for the elementary students.

“We have to really watch the classroom parties and what we’re feeding kids during the school day,” Palik said. “We’ve changed our classroom policies to include healthy choices so that kids aren’t bringing in cupcakes and things like that. Kids like it. More physical activity means they get an extra ten minutes of recess.”

Both elementary schools have started a walking club before school, and teachers are encouraged to use exercise programs like GoNoodle, a series of 3-4 minute exercise videos for kids, on a daily basis. They’ve also held walk or bike to school days, and now they’re considering giving away prizes to reward the effort.

Recently, DCES acquired a grant for $2,200 to spend on pedometers for the walking club and a smoothie bike, a blender powered by pedaling, rental for their spring family night. In the past, the school has also qualified for activities like the NFL Play 60 where a NFL player visited to encourage students to exercise.

Bellwood implemented similar efforts toward wellness by planting their own garden. Students harvest vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes to be served in the lunch line. The school has other activities scheduled such as dancing contests and a family walk night in May that maps out a safe route around the town.

To add to the district’s productivity, the high school added many other nutritional options of their own like breakfast carts every morning and smoothies after school once a week during the spring.

Coupled with the schools’ own efforts, government mandates have also affected the schools. Since 2012, DCPS has seen changes in not only what goes into the vending machines but also lunch lines with stricter regulations to help prevent obesity.

“If [students] have obesity issues, they know what they can do to work toward changing that and have a place to find information. That’s what’s important,” Mayo said.

In two years, the schools will be able to apply again. By sustaining and improving exercise programs, DCES might be up for the Gold Award in 2016. Until then, Palik said she hopes to make health and wellness a norm in the community.