Jenny began volunteering in the school and implementing wellness into the school environment when her youngest daughter started attending elementary school. She has organized numerous wellness activities, events, and programs in the school with the support of the principal and staff. She started the Healthy Pirates Committee on the PTO board that helped her continue to improve the school health scores and start the school Youth Wellness Council. She continues to facilitate youth wellness leaders and recruit parents in West Virginia schools. This lead to working with Try This WV and starting a community wellness council to “connect the dots of wellness” for her own community by creating the WV Parents Action for Wellness Network and website.
WV Parents Action for Wellness Network
How to Communicate Successfully with a School
Problem: Early learners are often confused about what is healthy and what is harmful to their bodies. This easy 12 activity program helps them understand that they have healthy options. Parents provide the healthy role modeling and training is easy and uncomplicated.
Project Description: HALO (healthy alternatives for little ones) is an easy 12 visit program with fun, short, engaging, hands-on activities for ages 4-5-6. Parent/grandparent/guardian volunteers are gleaned from parent organizations, prevention coalitions or faith communities. Training in this stellar early learning project is provided by a 30 minute DVD. At the end of the 12 activities students will be able to know what it takes to “grow bigger, stronger and better able to think.”
How the project got started: When I realized that I wanted to volunteer in my child’s school and did not know where or who to speak with, I had to learn the ropes by trial and error. Some battles were won and some were lost, but I learned quickly that compromise and making a school staff member aware that you are there to help them and not the other way around was a best practice.
5 steps to start this project:
- Learn who school staff is at the school.
- Schedule a meeting with the principal to introduce yourself and just chat about school in general.
- Find out what the school principal is most passionate about as an administrator
- Ask to be on the school LSIC (Local School Improvement Council)
- Join or start a Parent Group
What did you learn? Active listening and really understanding a school and their staff’s needs is imperative.
Did you have a “A-Ha or Light Bulb” Moment? The moment that I realized as many big ideas that I had, I needed to approach the principal or teacher with a smaller version and make sure they knew it would be no more work for them.
What was the biggest challenge and how did you overcome it? Not every School Administrator has the same priorities or style. You may expect to have the same positive experience and that is not always the case. For example, once your child moves from elementary school to a middle school, the logistics are much different and the principal has a different view on how to include parents or not to include parents in school activities. The best thing I learned was to get to know each principal and take note of any personal views, priorities, and even things that may come up in conversation more on a personal side.
What resources, videos, websites helped you put your project/strategy together?
How have you engaged the following partners in your strategy?
…parents and grandparents? Host an activity or meeting off campus that involve a fun way to include the students.
…students? I started an afterschool activity or youth group that engaged students.
…teachers and support staff? I had some of the students and other parents give feedback on what they knew about each teacher or any experiences and conversations they had with the school principal.
…principal/administrators? Always be prepared and approach an administrator with a small plan or idea if you are wanting to implement something at the school. Make sure they know that it will not be anymore work for them.
…business/labor/community partners? You can always find community partners willing to help. Look at who is on the chamber of commerce and ask around about what nonprofit organizations with an educational mission or program who may want to team up to write a grant or partner with the school parent group or the school.