NC Prevention Partners visit Surry County schools

David Broyles Staff Reporter

October 23, 2013

North Carolina Prevention Partners representatives appeared pleased Tuesday on a visit to evaluate local school health initiatives supported by $1,000 in Zone Health Award grant monies.

“Surry County Schools continue to impress us with their ability to make wellness look easy to integrate into business as usual in schools,” said NC Partners Health Program Manager Julie Knaack. “It starts with leadership and ends with interested and motivated students and teachers.”

Other members of the partners team which toured Copeland Elementary, Westfield and Shoals Elementary were Kara VanderGrift, Hannah Prentice-Dunn, Intern Cara Wilck and Heather Berdinair. The three local schools received $1,000 each for reaching a high standard of excellence in student wellness and obesity prevention.

Knaack also praised the Surry County Schools Health Advisory Council, which began its partnership with NC Prevention Partners and its school obesity prevention program in 2011.

The Zone Health program is used by more than 80 districts across the state. Franklin Elementary first won the award for the county system in 2011-2012. Its main focus is to give students the knowledge to make healthier lifestyle choices.

The team was welcomed by student-ambassadors and served lunch at Copeland with presentations which included teacher Staci Jessup introducing them to the school’s web page for healthy activities and an explanation of the annual fun day events. Physical education teacher Ron Hill and third grader Emily Spicer talked with the group about healthy activity logs being kept by students, which is a county-wide activity in grades 3-8.

“A lot of our program is geared around being healthy rather than running wind sprints,” Hill told the group. “We did the logs as part of our homeroom activities. This is our first month going out so the information is just coming in. It’s not so much abut a grade. It’s about getting them doing stuff.”

Spicer answered questions from the group about information in her log and her mother, Assistant Principal Margaret Spicer, told them when her daughter got home in the evenings “she jumps out of the car and gets on her bicycle.” She said from a mother’s perspective, her daughter was excited about the activity program.

Hill explained that much of American culture has been devoted to fitness only from an athletic standpoint, so activities supporting life-long fitness needed to be emphasized. Student Council President Elek Wyble, Audrey Poindexter, Jake Brettl and Clay Whitaker talked about running in 5K events.

“This is paradigm shift for educators as well as some parents,” said Principal Sandra Scott. “A lot of the information we give to parents like Body Mass Index (BMI) is new. We and parents are both getting better at processing it. This will not happen overnight. In a sense we are educating students and parents which is especially important with the national rates of childhood obesity and health issues.”

Teacher Tina Howlette, Wyuble and Laken Creed talked with Partners representatives about how the student council is helping to decide rewards as part of the Positive Behavior Support Intervention program as well as the direction of fundraisers and festivals. They said things such as 30 minutes extra of recess or healthy Wii activities were being substituted as rewards instead of candy.

“Most of the time we think of what kids our age here think,” said Wyble. “Teachers might not.” He told the group of how the “Change for Change” fundraiser at the school was a student idea which earned $260 to help pay for new playground equipment.

School District Nutrition Director Sherri Parks was also on hand to host the group to a lunch at the school showcasing healthy fare including lasagna, oven baked French fries and fresh fruits and salads.

“I’m very proud of our staff and all they do. We’re getting used to new nutritional regulations and changes,” said Parks. “We’re always trying to stay caught up because guidelines are constantly changing. I am proud of how we have been able to create healthier meals children will want to eat. People are so busy that children sometimes are not aware of healthy options because they don’t encounter them more often at home or in restaurants.”

Shoals Elementary used its grant money to purchase three electronic systems with physically active games software for its “Fitness on the GO” program. Westfield used its funding to create a fitness room with exercise equipment and an interactive gaming console. Copeland purchased new playground equipment with its $1,000 grant and took students on a field trip which included team building and new workout activities.

Reach David Broyles at or 336-719-1952.