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Planting Seeds of Health in Valley Youth

By Doris Steadman
Coach Rebecca Hovde-Baker from Indio High School and Hoover Elementary teacher, Patricia Schoenfeld, inspire students  to run!

Coach Rebecca Hovde-Baker from Indio High School and Hoover Elementary teacher, Patricia Schoenfeld, inspire students to run!

Thanks to the Clinton Foundation’s Alliance for a Healthier Generation, 80 Coachella Valley schools representing all three districts now have wellness programs.

Palm Springs Unified was the first district to create a Wellness Committee three years ago.  The Coachella Valley District has incorporated a Wellness Policy developed and run by students and their families.

Desert Sands (DSUSD) has developed a Wellness Council for not only students and staff, but the entire community.  Representatives from each participating school meet on a regular basis to develop programs and increase participation.

Current programs include WOW!, a four-year commitment by participating schools to develop a healthy environment for students, employees and families.  Elementary schools were the primary participants last year, and a number of middle and high schools have joined this year. The Working on Wellness committee informs the community of events and programs created through their District Wise newsletter.

DSUSD is also participating in the Humana 4th Grade Health Education Project which includes nutrition classes for parents in English and Spanish, after school sports, and community gardens tended by students.

One of the most popular activities is the walking/running clubs taking place at several elementary schools.  Students who come to school early to participate earn necklaces, and then charms for every 5 miles walked or run.  Kindergarteners even man scanners that turn data into miles!

DSUSD employees also benefit from a variety of programs including Weight Watchers, hiking groups, Zumba and yoga classes (held at district sites) and even discounted gym memberships.  They are looking to add belly dancing and self-defense classes if interest permits.

Wellness-Comm-kidDSUSD is also planning a second annual health fair for staff in early May with representatives from the community offering information and services.

Lenea Pollett, Coachella Valley Director of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, feels that the programs, which are teacher run on a voluntary basis, have had a very positive response and continue to grow.

“So many of us say, ‘it’s so hard to get into the habit of exercising,’ ” says Marta Shand, DSUSD Site Manager of Nutrition Services. “Our school programs hopefully plant early seeds in students to make healthy choices daily for the rest of their lives!”

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