Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a Clinton-Foundation-funded organization dedicated to health and wellness in public schools, announced that the Saugus Union School District had 15 schools that were to be awarded and named America’s Healthiest Schools for the 2022-2023 school year.
All schools within the district were recognized for at least two out of nine wellness categories while it had nine out of the 14 schools nationwide that received an “all-star” award from the organization. These schools included Bridgeport Elementary, Cedarcreek Elementary School, Emblem Academy, Plum Canyon Elementary School, Rosedell Elementary School, Santa Clarita Elementary School and West Creek Academy.
The district’s press release announcing these awards gave a special thanks to Samantha Ford, lead teacher on special assignment at West Creek. Ford said a series of initiatives at the district level and implementations at the school level contributed to their success, particularly amid the wellness concerns during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ford said a program called the Employee Assistance Service for Education helped a lot of staff members adjust to the changing atmospheres in the past three years.
“Coming out of COVID, everybody was a little bit, you know, just struggling I guess. Just coming out of COVID and having taught online and then coming back to the classroom and in and out with all kinds of masks, no masks, who’s sick, are there people we are going to contaminate … just all of that COVID stuff that we had to deal with.”
After dealing with staff wellness, the district focused on student wellness by providing more mental health resources, focusing on building healthy relationships and by providing nutritious and healthy meals for the students.
Part of this included 20 minutes of social-emotional instruction every day, where teachers taught students about how to handle stress, how to communicate, how to make friends and how to make connections with other students on campus.
To be recognized for all of this work, takes a lot of work in itself. Proof of these programs and its effectiveness have to be provided to the organization to be considered, but the district and its schools say they felt it was important to do that.
“It is work to apply for it because you do have to apply and you do have to provide proof, but it’s nice for people to get recognized for their hard work because it takes, I mean, it’s the parent community, it’s the student community, it’s the staff at the school. It’s everybody focusing on those things,” said Ford.
Ford added that, this year, they aim to create a “kindness revolution” by teaching students how being kind can affect every aspect of one’s life.
“One of our biggest hopes for this coming year I think is going to be our focus on kindness with students being kind and adults being kind,” said Ford. “It’s actually on our marquee out front and there’s always a message about being kind … so hopefully we will start to see more of that in our entire community.”