by Lorraine Jacobson, The Sargent County Teller
Milnor Public School received the national distinction of a Healthier US School, Gold Level through the USDA, on Friday, January 10, 2014. Award presentations were done by Kristen Baesler, N.D. State Superintendent of Schools, accompanied by Kay Knudson, administrator of the Child Nutrition Education Program, and Deb Egeland, Assistant Administrator of Child Nutrition.
Baesler reminded the crowd that kids who have healthy eating patterns and get regular physical activity are also more likely to perform better academically. The school is recognized for their efforts in improving food and beverage offerings, teaching kids about nutritious food choices and the importance of being physically active by providing opportunities for enjoyable physical activity. All of this is supported by having school wellness policies.
The first to receive the gold medallions were para educators Lori Yagow and Janet Roeder. They provided morning activities and active recesses. Betsy Buckhouse, elementary principal, thanked them for their tireless efforts to keep the elementary students moving and shaking. The two have created an elementary morning walking program (aka the Walk of Fame), facilitated fun activities such as the limbo, the keep it up balloon challenge and dances like the cupid shuffie. These ladies have been trained in active recess which means leading games and activities to keep kids moving during recess breaks on the playground and in the Milnor Area Community Center (MACC).
The next two gold medallions went to Karla Dusek, head cook, and Chris Myers, former assistant cook. Buckhouse also thanked Robin Knudson, former assistant cook, and Jodi Widhalm, current assistant cook, whose work was to provide nutritious, appealing, kid friendly meals. Their work also focused on building a salad bar filled with nutritious and appealing fresh fruits and vegetables. This has now progressed to the endless salad bar. Buckhouse has written a grant for the last two years to allow the students to enjoy a fresh fruit and vegetable snack each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Buckhouse and Diann Aberle, superintendent, received the gold medallions for their work in the leadership role by implementing a healthier school nutrition environment. As Baesler said, this accomplishment takes everyone working together.
The boys of the N.D. Jumpstreet then jumped gracefully and energetically on to the gymnasium floor. Baesler closed the presentation by shouting, “GO BISON.” A loud response from the crowd prompted the four jumpers to begin passing out jump ropes to all of the students. These jump ropes were purchased from donations made to the N.D. Jumpers for this event. It felt like the close of a pre-tournament pep rally! GO BISON!
In a follow-up interview with Buckhouse, she described the onset of the application project and wanted to recognize several other people involved in the two and one half year process. The School Improvement/AdvancED program identified the need for a wellness initiative at Milnor Public School. Anissa Gregor was instrumental in this process as a co-chair with Buckhouse in the 2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013 school years. Gregor was able to assure student involvement in the process.
Julie Kaspari, school counselor and wellness committee member, worked on the social and emotion component in the school She focused specifically on strong social skills, character education and the anti-bullying initiative, described Buckhouse.
Empowering students to take charge of their nutrition was the initiative led by Katie McLaen. As the consumer science studies educator and wellness committee member, McLaen charged classes with creating a BISON health visual which lists all of the nutritional contents of the foods available in the healthy snack machine. These easy to follow pictures assist students of all ages to make positive nutritional choices.
Amy Walters, of Coordinated School Health (CHS) for the South East Education Cooperative (SEEC), was a mentor for completing the School Health Index (SHl). With this, the committee was able to identify and create goals to meet the specific needs of Milnor Public School in the eight areas of Coordinated School Health. Walters helped by bringing in Valley City School nutritionist, Sue Milender, to work with food service personnel creating menus that are nutritious and delicious. Walters and CHS also sponsored staff with grant money to attend the North Dakota Rough Rider Conference in Medora for the last two years; described Buckhouse. The 2011 to 2012 team included Susan Fust, Katie Kohoutek, Pam Gabel, Katie McLaen, Kristin Kuntz and Buckhouse. The 2012 to 2013 team was Robin Knutson, Lori Yagow, Janet Roeder and Buckhouse.
As Baesler said in her closing remarks, “With this award going to the Milnor Public School, there is no better example of working together.”
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