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Parents are the Power: Colorado’s 2017 Healthy School Heroes

Congratulations to our 2017 Colorado Parents are the Power Healthy School Hero Award winners! Since 2012, Colorado AFHK has recognized parent champions for their exceptional dedication and service towards the vision, mission, and goals of Action for Healthy Kids through volunteer work at their schools and in their communities. These five parent volunteers were nominated by their school communities for their outstanding and long-term commitment to help ensure students are healthy and ready to learn. Award winners receive $500 from Colorado AFHK to donate to their school for health and wellness programming. Get inspired by their stories below.

Our 2017 Heroes

Angela Forster
Charles Hay World School, Englewood, CO

Angela Forster’s first task as a parent volunteer on the Charles Hay school health team was to raise money through community craft fairs and grant funding to install shade structures on an otherwise barren school playground. Now students and their families can stay active and cool while being protected from the hot Colorado sun. Taking advantage of the shade, Angela also provides opportunities for parents to be fit and model healthy behavior to their kids by offering after-school playground fitness classes.

Angela was recently chosen to participate in a community task force to help design a new school building. With health and wellness in mind, she advocated for an outdoor garden classroom, stairs for added exercise within the building and multiple courtyards to encourage outdoor activity throughout the day. Praised by her entire school health team, Angela has a reputation for going “out of her way, every day, to make a difference in the lives of the students, teachers and extended community.”

Dina Arnott
Parmalee Elementary, Indian Hills, CO

Parent volunteer Dina Arnott co-chairs the Parmalee PTA’s Health, Wellness & Safety Committee. Described as an “innovator,” Dina focuses on collaborating with local and community-based programs such as Jeffco Healthy Schools, Mountain Resource Center, Colorado PTA and other local school health teams to seek new ways to apply best practices, share ideas and gather resources and momentum for creating a healthy school environment.

Dina co-founded the hugely popular 100 Mile Club® that serves a whopping 185 students. Kids love to run and log their miles two mornings a week before school. She also provides a weekly wellness tip about physical activity and nutrition for the school newsletter and piloted a “Spirit Sticks” program which has led to a school-wide focus on non-food rewards. In 2016, Dina co-created an annual produce-tasting event during Every Kid Healthy Week by partnering with the school nutrition staff. Because of Dina’s advocacy around healthy eating, their back-to-school event now serves watermelon instead of popsicles, and a Fresh Fruit Fridays program provides fresh produce to food-insecure families.

Ruth Rueter
Hulstrom K-8, Northglenn, CO

Parent volunteer Ruth Rueter is a co-founder of the Hulstrom K-8 school wellness team, and “is responsible for leading much of the school’s culture change,” according to fellow team member, Esther Lum. Due to Ruth’s efforts, physical activity has become a priority at Hulstrom over the past several years, starting with “Fitness Counts,” a pedometer program that provides incentives to teachers for offering classroom physical activity and extra recess time. She also helped start a popular staff fitness program so that teachers are modeling healthy behaviors.

Projects have since expanded to include recess before lunch, teacher-led brain breaks, flexible and active classroom seating options and a spring-time running program. This culture shift recently earned a “Golden Sneaker” award from the school district. This past year, the team expanded its focus to include healthy eating by offering field trips to a local grocery store.

Sheri Thompson
Samuels Elementary, Denver, CO

One year after Sheri Thompson’s son started school at Samuels Elementary, she was leading the after-school Garden Club and Garden to Cafeteria program. Under Sheri’s leadership, the Garden Club has blossomed to over 100 participants, and students have tasted over 30 varieties of vegetables from the garden. In 2016, the garden produced over 400 pounds of fresh food that was sold back to the cafeteria for use in the school meals program.

Sheri plants with the students each spring and helps them harvest in the fall. She encourages students to “eat the rainbow” by providing vegetable snacks from the garden on a regular basis. Fellow parent champion Pallas Quist reports that “the exposure has gotten kids to really love the flavors and appreciate new tastes.” Sheri’s contagious enthusiasm has excited and engaged parents and teachers alike who all want to help lead small group garden activities.

Shellie McKeown
Elk Creek Elementary, Pine, CO

Shellie McKeown is passionate about fostering parents as school wellness “heroes” at Elk Creek Elementary where her daughter goes to school, and throughout her entire mountain community where she mentors parent leaders at multiple schools through her work with the Mountain Resource Center. As a parent champion at Elk Creek, Shellie helped brainstorm ideas and facilitate funding for various projects, including Switch Witch, (a Halloween candy trade-in for non-food items), campaigns to reduce sugary snacks and rewards, family cooking nights and a farm-to-table themed decorating project for the school cafeteria. Most recently, Shellie helped with the substitution of fresh fruit and infused water for sugary treats and beverages at various school events. With inspiration from Shellie, the Elk Creek Health & Wellness team switched their cookie dough fundraiser to a very successful fun run.

Fellow parent advocate Kat Foreman calls Shellie “the supportive backbone of the health and wellness movement in the mountain community…Her relentless hard work and dedication have led to lasting changes not just at Elk Creek, but at many other schools as well.”

Honorable Mentions

Colorado AFHK also extends Healthy School Hero Honorable Mentions to Carrie Godes at Sopris Elementary and Josh Langford at Baker Elementary.

Congratulations to our 2017 award winners! We’d also like to recognize all of the parents in our Wellness Kit Program and on our Parent Advisory Board who are heroes in their communities. Many thanks to you and to all of the unsung heroes in schools across the state for your passion and dedication to our children.