A Professional Check-Up: Creating Healthy Schools & Communities 2019 Convening
by DANA FAISON
Going to the doctor for a check-up lets us know how our bodies are doing. Are there any changes we need to make? Is there anything we can improve on? In the same matter, attending conferences gives us a check-up on our professional development. We connect with fellow colleagues to discuss ways we can better serve the communities where we work. When we return to work, we are ready to put what we learned from those discussions into action.
The New York State Department of Health(NYSDOH) shares those same sentiments and created Creating Healthy Schools and Communities (CHSC) Convening. CHSC's goal is to reduce risk factors contributing to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses in schools and communities.
The past four years NYSDOH Obesity Prevention Center for Excellence has held the CHSC convening in communities around the New York State area. This year's theme was "Leaving a footprint spreading roots, Sustaining CHSC Activities into the Future." The three-day conference allowed grantees to reflect on the work they are currently doing, learn from colleagues, obtain and refine skills, and become motivated about their initiatives in the coming year.
Choice for All was invited to host a seminar at this year's conference about the Healthy Corner Store Network initiative. COO Kendra Hogan, Community Wellness Coordinators (CWC) Shanice Bibbs and Dana Faison, and Research Associate Dr. Khashayar Farhoomandi presented "Building Healthy Communities, One Corner Store at a Time”. The seminar focused on the inception of the Healthy Corner Store Network (HCSN) - Roosevelt, current efforts, best practices in building effective partnerships with local deli owners, community outreach and engagement, and sustainability.
During the conference, our staff attended peer roundtable discussions and CHSC site visits. The visits enabled the team to have meaningful conversations about the strengths and challenges of CHSC initiatives., which led to feedback on approaches we will use to serve our communities better.
Nepperhan Community Center-led site tours demonstrated CHSC efforts are implemented around the host City of Yonkers. The tour included a healthy corner store, elementary schools, and a bike ride through downtown Yonkers to visit the Hudson Valley Science Barge and the Bzark Environmental Education Center.
A key highlight was seeing how wellness policies have enabled elementary school students to practice mindfulness and meditation with daily activities and exercises. We observed educators teach students how to use spoons, mugs, and other household items as a tool to improve their mood.
The third and final day of the conference was rewarding. Choice for All won the NYS Walking College NYC Metro Area Team Leadership Award for our Vision Zero Roosevelt Complete Streets Project with America Walks, NYS Creating Healthy Schools & Communities, and NYS Obesity Prevention Center for Excellence. This initiative is committed to creating a vibrant, walkable environment here in Roosevelt.
We left the CWCS convening rejuvenated and motivated. We returned to work ready to apply the approaches we learned to our own initiatives, starting with interactive health and wellness lessons for the students at our Student Success Center. We will apply the wellness model used by Yonkers elementary schools to teach students about mindfulness and meditation. CWCs have also begun scouting public locations in Roosevelt to host Environmental Wellness Programs for residents.
Attending conferences like the CHSC Convening provides us with the opportunity to experiment with different approaches. This check-up allows us to fine-tune our programs and initiatives so that we can have lasting effects on our community now and for generations to come.