Left to right: Tima Faison, Benjamin Ferder, and Hannah Joseph are members of the PS 311 (Lucero Elementary School) School Wellness Council.
This post was written by Victor Gidarisingh, Program Coordinator for the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities program.
PS 311 (Lucero Elementary School), has achieved the pinnacle of school wellness by creating a transformative health environment in their Bronx school. Seeing itself as more than a school, PS 311 recognizes that education institutions can also serve as a model for students and families in healthy eating, access to physical activity, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. For PS 311, the journey to platinum was an actualization of a vision that did not happen overnight. The process was gradual and began when former Physical Education teacher and current Physical Education Instruction Coach at PE Works, Ms. Cristina Muia, laid the foundation in 2014, when they received the gold award, then in 2015 gold plus, and now in 2016, platinum.
How did they achieve this? Newcomer and successor to Ms. Muia, PE Instructor Mr. Benjamin Ferder joined forces with Hannah Joseph, a FoodCorps Service Member and Tima Faison, a paraprofessional at the school. Hannah describes the winning formula this way, “We built from a foundation where everyone was passionate—individual’s passions came together and all members were able to bounce ideas off one another.” According to Mr. Ferder, “As a new teacher in school, I asked a lot of questions—I wanted to know what worked in the past. The continuity from years past inspired me to strive for platinum. While the three core members of Tima, Ben, and Hannah steered Lucero Elementary during the school year through their wellness council, their efforts were reinforced by the contributions of Principal Cuba, Parent Coordinator Ms. Lopez, and the students themselves who served as “wellness ambassadors.” They worked with Chef Kent to serve salad during lunch and model to their peers that lunch could be healthy, nutritious, and delicious.
Like a team that had been built for a championship, PS 311 made their breakthrough in year 3 and proudly achieved platinum, the highest possible award from The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Excellence in School Wellness Award. PS 311 hopes to maintain their strong healthy school and community environment. Their goal for next year is to increase parent involvement—to make school wellness programs more “parent-friendly” and to inspire more teacher involvement by hosting professional developments for teachers geared at combining physical activity and stress reduction. PS 311, a flagship school in District 9, aims to inspire surrounding schools in the Morrisania neighborhood—to address health disparities and exemplify how schools can be a place of wellness.