Last month, HSC teamed up with Chicago Public Schools and the Office of Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to present Heroes for Healthy Schools, a series to focus attention on the role everyone can play in ensuring that all children are able to succeed in school and live healthy lives. We invited our readers across the country to nominate individuals they see making a difference for kids’ health at school and in the community. Today we are happy to spotlight one of the many Heroes for Healthy Schools you wrote to tell us about!
"I have known Rainey for about 20 years and watched her as she finished college, traveled, married and had two children of her own. She has always had an interest in health and nutrition, and the well being of children in particular.
When her son Matthew started grade school, she saw that schools, were pushing for higher academic achievement but were ignoring the health and nutrition of their students. Rainey took the lead in gently nudging the school to adopt policies that promoted healthy snacks for celebrations and events as an alternative to the sugary treats that they customarily handed out. She also promoted a back pack program to help underprivileged students to have access to foods over the weekends. She fostered a community garden at the school so the children could have a sense of where their food came from and appreciate the effort it takes to bring food from the field to the table. She also was instrumental in starting a run program at the school before classes so kids could have more physical activity than the school day provided. She formed alliances between the principal, concerned parents and teachers to promote the program so that the school has now received many accolades for its healthy school environment.
Rainey has taken her passion for children’s health to her position with Adams County Schools as a consultant for their district wide initiative to promote healthy eating habits and physical activity. She has inspired me and many other concerned parents and community partners to work toward the goal both scholastic and nutritional excellence.
I nominate Rainey as a parent, activist and my wife."
~ Mike Fritschen
"It is with great enthusiasm that I nominate Rainey Wikstrom as my hero for healthy schools. Rainey has been such an inspiration to parents, teachers and administrators, and it is through her tireless and persistent efforts that initiatives for healthy schools have begun and continue to thrive.
I first met Rainey when I was looking for a preschool for my children, and discovered that Rainey was the key person that had initiated and implemented a Wellness Policy at University Park Elementary School. I subsequently chose the school because of my strong belief that school policies for health significantly impact both the learning environment as well as the capacity for children to maximize their academic potential. (I am a pediatric nurse as well as a parent, and I have seen countless examples of the negative effects poor nutrition and lack of exercise have on children). It was only later that I fully realized the challenges that are inherent in developing these kinds of healthy school programs, especially as I have tried to implement reforms at the school my children currently attend. University Park has been named 'The Healthiest School in Denver,' 'Healthiest School in the Region,' and a 'Leader in school wellness in the school district.'
Rainey has now generously shared her expertise with multiple other schools and districts to create policies and programs to improve the health and wellness of students throughout Colorado. She is a presenter, mentor and advocate for creating healthy school environments throughout the state, and countless children have benefited from her work and knowledge. She has facilitated over $1 million in grants and in-kind support, testified on behalf of the Colorado Snack Bill, and she has developed dozens of partnerships that have enabled multiple schools to implement wellness programs.
For many years, Rainey volunteered countless hours to school wellness, and now she is working full-time to implement creative school wellness reforms for an entire school district. Through her position, she has led additional reforms that will become models for other districts; areas include healthy school meals, school environments, and promoting exercise as an integral part of wellness through improved play areas.
My belief now is that Rainey will take her expertise to the national level, and thousands more children will benefit from her tireless and hard work, her expertise, and her dedication to healthy schools. She is truly a healthy schools hero!"
- Anne Davidson-Mundt
Kudos to Rainey for all of her hard work and dedication to making school a healthier and happier place! Stay posted for more spotlights on heroes for healthy schools who were nominated from across the nation.
Plus! To read about more individuals who are making a difference for school wellness, check out the Heroes for Healthy Schools section of HSC's blog!