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A Wellness Community Achieves the HealthierUS School Challenge

On a sunny October morning at Columbia School in El Monte, California, Allen Ng, our Regional Administrator at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service presented El Monte City School District with the first HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) Awards in California since the Challenge joined the Let’s Move! initiative one year ago.

When asked why El Monte City School District took the Challenge, Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, humbly explained his desire to highlight the collaborative nature found in El Monte’s wellness community.  It’s no surprise Dr. Lewis points to the consistent teamwork and partnership among school district folks, community members, parents, teachers, principals, school nurses, district office administrators, and students as the key to achieving Silver HUSSC awards for 14 of El Monte’s elementary schools.

Allen Ng (right), Regional Administrator for Food and Nutrition Service, is having lunch with Columbia School students.

The community’s collaborative spirit certainly abounded on the Columbia School campus on the morning of the celebration event and throughout our day in El Monte.  When we arrived, students helped staff hang the Silver award banners as the 7th and 8th grade choir practiced and prepared their vocals for the opening songs for the ceremony.

Just outside the gymnasium, it was really tempting to join the students taking laps around the gorgeous new track in the center of the school campus.  We had the pleasure of meeting the cheerful cafeteria staff who help model the importance of physical activity by routinely taking brisk walks together around the track during their breaks while keeping a running log of how far they have gone.  However, jogging is not the only way Columbia students are logging PE hours.  The 6th graders showed off the coordinated dance moves they are learning in PE class to the audience at the ceremony in festive Halloween attire.

Cooperation was celebrated as the Superintendent and the Columbia School Principal both thanked the entire El Monte community for helping to work towards a healthy school environment stressing the important role these changes play in the students’ overall health and academic success.  Similarly, Dr. Lewis shared the spotlight with his nutrition staff and thanked each principal, teacher, parent, and student for their role in achieving the Challenge.  He also thanked Phyllis Bramson, the state Director of Nutrition Services Division, for encouraging him to apply.

Congratulations to El Monte City Schools for achieving the HealthierUS School Challenge and thanks for letting us get a glimpse of your wonderful wellness community!