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STOC earns distinction from health educators

Gold standard
Posted on 06/14/2019

Students at St. Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Elementary School just might be some of the healthiest in our entire school board, and they’ve got the gold to prove it.

Thanks to a year’s worth of efforts by staff, students and community partners, the school recently learned that it was the only one in the WECDSB to receive gold status from Ontario Physical and Health Education Association(Ophea)’s Healthy Schools Certification program.

“We’re really proud of this,” said Kimberly Givlin, the school’s Health and Learning Support Service Teacher (LSST), who helped spearhead the initiative to be recognized. “We have a phenomenal staff and community support team. We work with Lora Prokopetz our public health nurse, with our church and their youth coordinator Christine Coyle who comes over and helps us a lot. It was a real community effort to get this certification.”

Ophea’s Healthy Schools Certification program recognizes and celebrates school communities for promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of students, school staff, and the broader community. Participating schools across Ontario completed the 6-Step Healthy Schools Process, which aligns with the Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School resource and the Well-Being Strategy for Education.

Students from the school’s health team say the real results of going through the process far exceed the certification.

“All of the hard work paid off,” said Keelan Reaume-Huard. “I feel more active now. I make better choices for food now.”

Givlin said the process began in October by establishing a team and defining the school community’s needs. By February they had identified their school’s priority topic as mental health and developed a plan.

Besides promoting the school’s healthy nutrition program and participation in extra-curricular activities, they started a health team whose goal was to ensure that wellness is at the forefront in the minds of staff and students, and that students would have to act as leaders to promote wellness. To accomplish that, they created posters that were hung throughout the school to raise awareness about the importance of mental health.

As a culminating activity, they planned a mental wellness day on May 15. Community members and staff came together to talk with students about coping strategies and resiliency, as well as participate in activities like Zumba and yoga.

“We’ve been trying new things and accomplishing new goals, and it feels really nice to do that,” said Grade 4 student Olivia Soumas.

Kadence Carter was inspired to join the school’s dance club, which she says has improved her overall health.

“It’s really fun and active because we get to dance around,” she said.

An essential part of their mental health involved making a connection between spiritual faith and wellness, Givlin said. So there was an increased emphasis on church attendance and on learning about how faith can improve health.

“We wanted to make sure there was a connection to church,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for students to turn to their faith when they’re suffering through times of mental stress.”

Grade 4 student Monera Musa says going to church and practicing her faith helps her mental health tremendously.

“Because you’re getting closer to God it makes you feel happy and calm,” she said.

“We learned that whenever you’re having a rough time you can sit down, maybe go to church on Sunday, have a little more religious faith in you and it will guide you through your stress,” added Reaume-Huward.

Ophea is looking to reach more schools with Healthy Schools Certification in the upcoming school year. Registration will open Sept. 3. For more information on this initiative, including how to register or questions about this year’s participating schools, please visit www.ophea.net/HSCertification or email healthyschools@ophea.net.

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