2017 Healthy School Hero: Michelle Selb-Sack
“I became involved with school wellness due to the changes I saw in my family when we decided to make healthy lifestyle choices,” says Michelle Selb-Sack, a mother of three who lives in Lino Lakes, Minnesota, in the White Bear Lake Area School District. “The happiness and joy I saw in my kids when we started eating healthier and being more active made me want to spread that joy to others.”
Today, the family loves going camping, canoeing, hiking and biking together, while the kids—now 15, 11 and 7—also enjoy being involved in school sports and clubs. For the past five years, Selb-Sack has been working in partnership with the community-wide wellness movement BearPower to help promote healthy lifestyles and healthy eating at Otter Lake Elementary, where her youngest daughter is now in second grade.
Her favorite project is a timely one: the Candy Buy Back Challenge. The local dentist and orthodontist started the challenge years ago, asking children to turn in their extra Halloween candy and presenting an award to the school in the district that turns in the most. Otter hosts the collection at school, and when all the candy is turned in, Selb-Sack transports it to the dentist’s office. Last year, Otter students brought in more than 500 pounds of their candy.
“To be present at school when students show up with bags and bags full of Halloween candy to turn in is a great feeling,” she says. “Otter Lake has won the challenge the past three years, and we look forward to participating in it again!”
Selb-Sack has been involved in many other health initiatives as well, including facilitating a school wide move-a-thon to encourage students and staff to be more active; hosting a family fitness night; promoting healthy snacks during the school day as well as during school conferences; coordinating the School Change Challenge to improve Otter’s school health index; establishing Screen Awareness Week; participating in the Try for 5 School Challenge, which encourages students to try five fruits or veggies every day; establishing a BearPower room at the school carnival and eliminating the pop toss; and switching from candy bingo to trinket bingo.
Selb-Sack also created and co-chairs the annual BearScare Fun Run, a collaboration between Otter Lake and Lincoln Elementary schools aimed at providing affordable, fun, active and healthy options for community members. She is also on the district planning committee for the BearPower Bike Breakaway and the 6.24k Homecoming Celebration, free events put on for the White Bear Lake community to promote active lifestyles.
Seeing her own kids’ happiness and joy when they made healthy lifestyle changes is what motivated Selb-Sack to spread that joy to others—and based on students’ reactions to the programs and events she’s implemented, we’d say she’s succeeded.
“The most rewarding part [of my work] is the smiles and stories from the kids when they are participating in events or have just tried new healthy foods,” she says.