PIGEON – Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Secondary Schools recently became a Michigan School Wellness Gold Award recipient because of the work the school does every day to ensure students’ health now and into the future.
“Laker (Secondary) School is a shining example of what it takes to build healthy school environments,” stated an email from Lonias Gilmore, of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Laker Secondary School Principal Jon Good and Scheurer School Clinic nurse Susie Irion attended the Michigan School Wellness Award Ceremony at the Michigan State Capitol Building recently. State Rep. Ned Canfield attended the event and congratulated Lakers on its accomplishment.
Lakers has received two bronze school wellness awards in previous years. This is the first gold award the school district has received.
“It is a tremendous honor to be recognized for all the hard work that has been done by many people,” Good said. “It is a testament that the Laker District and community as a whole are committed to doing what is best for our students.”
Irion said Scheurer Hospital, which partners with Lakers to offer the clinic at Laker Secondary School, is proud to work with a school that addresses more than just the basic educational needs of students.
“(Lakers) provides the nutritional, physical and emotional support students need to be successful in school and in life,” she said. “The support the staff has given the Scheurer School Clinic has been a huge part of the positive response we have seen in the students and faculty.”
Irion said the award represents the district’s open-mindedness, as it was the first school to establish the wellness clinic in partnership with Scheurer.
“With this being my first year in the clinic, I can honestly say I am proud to be a part of what our hospital and school offer, which supports the success of our kids,” she said. “With the presence of the clinic, the students are able to take ownership of their health and well-being. The motto of the clinic says it all – ‘Students must be healthy to be educated and educated to be healthy.'”
To achieve gold status, Lakers had to complete several steps when applying for the wellness award. Some of those steps included completion of the HSAT School Core Assessment and other assessments; an HSAT Action Plan with at least one action that has been worked on or completed; a School Health Team that meets at least four times a year; and submission of a school success story that meets the School Wellness Award criteria. The school needed to achieve an overall score of 275 or above.
Laker Superintendent Brian Keim said the gold award was something several staff members worked hard to achieve.
“There was a determination to reach the gold level after earning bronze the past two years,” Keim said. “I can’t say enough about the efforts of our staff and students, the Scheurer School Clinic, our food service group, our school board, and everyone else who has made school wellness a priority here at Lakers.”
As for the success story, Lakers submitted information about the district’s Farm to School program, led by coordinator Cinamon Marker. She was hired by the school as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School planning grant the school received.
“Students are being introduced to a variety of fresh produce and lunch specials using fresh ingredients twice a week by the Laker Farm to School coordinator,” the success story stated. “A network of organizations and individuals work together to provide local produce and develop new fresh recipes for the students. One of the most popular lunch specials was a non-processed version of Lunchables. Students receive a plate of whole-grain crackers, ham, turkey, a variety of cheeses, fruit and vegetables, such as carrots and sugar snap peas.”
In addition, Laker students at all grade levels receive a snack of fresh, in-season produce once a month as part of the Chef Ann grant. Some of the snacks so far have included grapes, sugar snap peas and jicama. Marker shares nutritional information as the snacks are distributed.
The success story also shared details about cooking classes for secondary school students, which was made possible through a grant from the Huron County Community Foundation. The participants have been learning many basic cooking skills, and during an upcoming cook-off event, the students will compete to see which one of their lunch entrees will be chosen to appear on a future school lunch menu.
“Farm to School activities help students learn more about where their food comes from and what it means to eat healthy,” the success story stated. “Also, getting the student’s input on what they like gives them more ownership of what they consume at lunchtime.”
Marker said she has enjoyed coordinating the Farm to School program, especially the Chef Ann grant.
“Exposing students to new fruits and vegetables gives them the opportunity to try them, and this has been a wonderful for the kids,” she said. “The kids are so excited when we have our tastings.”
Marker said the Farm to School program offers another way to teach lifelong wellness.
“I am honored to be a part of a compassionate, caring school district that has so many options for educating our students on health and wellness,” she said. “We are what we eat. A nutritional, balanced meal keeps kids focused so they can perform well in school. It takes a village to raise a child, or so the saying goes. I am certainly proud to work with a staff of people that promote what is best for kids’ education, health and wellness.”
In other school wellness efforts, Laker Secondary School offers gym classes, which include weight lifting, to all grade levels 6-12. Special seminar time activities for junior high students include physical exercise activities, such as walking, floor hockey and basketball. Secondary school students also receive health classes, including a freshmen health class that covers a variety of subjects, such as sexually-transmitted diseases.
Keim said he hopes the gold award communicates that Lakers cares a great deal about students’ overall well-being, because in order to learn well, students must be in good health.
“We’re not perfect, but we make an honest effort to promote a school culture where students can grow and develop into healthy individuals — physically, mentally and emotionally,” Keim said. “That’s not something you can accomplish alone. Everyone has to do their part, so this is a true team award. That makes it extra special.”
The School Wellness Award program is conducted by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Action for Healthy Kids.