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Magnolia Kicks Off Wellness Program

By Staff | Nov 11, 2009

Prominent members of the school, community, and state gather together for the Wellness Kick-Off held at Magnolia High School.

Magnolia High School has teamed up with the Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley and Wetzel County Hospital to implement a new wellness program to encourage an early start in healthy living.

The idea started last year when the school applied for a wellness initiative grant. Although they did not receive the grant as hoped, the grant committee continued working on forming a wellness program and gained overwhelming aid. “Kathi Schmalz and I didn’t know the next step, but we didn’t want to let this go.” said Dr. C.J. Myers, a grant committee member. Then coincidentally Myers received a visit from the Health Plan and it dawned on him to tell them about the idea. “Health Plan and Wetzel County Hospital jumped right on board and asked us what we needed. It was a wonderful surprise.” After several meetings and gathering of resources, the wellness initiative program is ready to run.

On Oct. 21 the school held a Wellness Kick-Off ceremony where several prominent members of the school and community gathered to pep everyone up and get ready for the program to officially start. The Health Plan presented the student body with free pedometers and explained to everyone about the program. The program involves walking journals, pedometers, curriculum, and prizes, all in the aim to encourage healthier lifestyles. “Awareness is the biggest hurdle,” said Dr. Myers. “We’ve got to let the public know about the potential serious health risks and teach them how to make positive changes.”

Already everyone at the school is consciously making healthier decisions. “It’s been so helpful and encouraging to see the faculty take the initiative themselves. Teachers have cut down on elevator use tremendously and are taking the program just as seriously as the intended students. We also think that happy teachers make way for happy teaching,” Principal Kathi Schmalz said.

In addition to pedometers, the Health Plan donated $5,000 to the cause, and will continue to be an integral part of the program. “At first it seemed a great disappointment to not get the grant. But it turns out that it was the best thing for the program. The support and aid we’ve received have surpassed the amount we would have gotten from the grant,” Myers added.

Additionally, a wellness class was put together specifically for upperclassmen, as after sophomore year physical education is no longer required. This course gives upperclassmen the opportunity to continue learning and adopting healthy habits. Coach Blair oversees the course, but many students are deeply involved in the research and development of the class, which is very encouraging.

As part of the initiative and the course, students will be putting together monthly themes to remind the school members of their goals.

Also, the program is conjoined with school curriculum in studying the Appalachian Trail. Students will figuratively walk the trail as they learn about it in social studies, math, English composition, and art courses. The homeroom classes and the teachers will compete weekly by combining their logged miles in their walking journals. Principal Schmalz says they plan to give away prizes for winning groups.

“We are looking into different strategies to reach our children in every way possible,” says Principal Schmalz. “West Virginia is ranked as one of the most obese states and we want to instill a healthy lifestyle to our children and students as early as possible. We also want to educate how important it is to not take our lives and bodies for granted, and see first hand the benefits of healthy living.”

Dr. Myers said that in his research, 31 percent of West Virginia adults are overweight and 35 percent of kids in the state are overweight. He added, “This is telling me that these children are presumed to be unhealthier than their parents. It’s discouraging to look at state statistics and constantly finding West Virginia in the bottom three. How do you change that? You just have to start something-make a plan and stick with it. Hopefully we’ll be able to change those numbers.”

In addition to the initiative, with parental permission the school plans to provide health screenings Nov. 16 and 17 as part of a Health Fair so that students may be screened and later rescreened to see actual health changes as a result of this program. “The Health Plan is thrilled to be working with the high school and seeing the students take the initiative is wonderful,” said Patricia Fast, vice president of operations at the Health Plan. “We need to help these students because what they do now impacts them for the rest of their lives. Anything we can do to help these young people lead healthier lifestyles will bring a positive change in the future for them as well as for those that follow.”

Support is gaining as other health professionals join the effort. Heather Leonard, a certified dietician, is offering an “Eat This, Not That” program, family nutrition counseling, shopping education, weight loss plans, and healthy cooking classes to be part of the health class curriculum.

And many prominent members of the community are chipping in to help make this program a success. Senator Larry Edgell has been talking with important linkages throughout the state to spread the news as well as pass on the idea to other schools. Principal Kathi Schmalz and Dr. CJ Myers wish to extend their sincere thanks for the overwhelming support from the hospital, Health Plan, and the state. Dr. Myers added, “We’re off to a great and exciting start. Now we’ve got to keep the momentum going and spark real change. It’s important to understand that Magnolia High School is just one school and this is just the beginning. We’ve volunteered to help other area schools start their own health program. One school isn’t going to change the statistics but if we can spread the word and get others motivated, it could catch on and change the stats for good.”

Permission slips for the Health Fair screenings have been sent home with the ninth and tenth grade students. However, if guardians have not received the permission slips, contact the school office at 304-455-1990. Further information can be found on the Magnolia High School Edline site.