ROY MERCON, photo
Initiative reaching out to community
ST. ALBANS CITY — There’s something impressive about 750 students, plus their teachers and other school staff, chanting the words “Rise VT! Rise VT!” in one, thunderous roar.
“This is really sending chills up my spine,” Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Harry Chen said on Monday. Chen, along with Green Mountain Care Board member Dr. Alan Ramsay, Northwestern Medical Center CEO Jill Berry Bowen, St. Albans Dept. of Health director Judy Ashley-McLaughlin and all RiseVT team members, looked on as St. Albans City School enjoyed “Stewardship Day.”
Stewardship Day was held to celebrate a number of achievements the school has made over the past couple of years: its status as a National Green Ribbon School since 2013, its 2015 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, and its “Gold” status with RiseVT, a community initiative encouraging healthy, active lifestyles.
Yesterday, students walked around their track, spelled “RiseVT” by standing in an outline of the logo on a field, used bike-generated smoothie machines to drink a healthy snack, played with RiseVT Jenga blocks and talked about their stewardship projects, which include a butterfly garden and Christmas tree farm.
“This is innovation,” said Chen as he watched. “We’ve got to do things different – it’s not just about healthcare. We’ve got to get the community to work together … to keep people out of the hospital.”
And, Chen added, in a place like Franklin County where health indicators are not the best, creative efforts like that of St. Albans City School are needed more and more.
“We have a lot of room for improvement,” said Chen. “This is great.”
A rising school
Dorey Demers, the RiseVT coordinator, said St. Albans City School is a model for what RiseVT is trying to do across the county with other schools, municipalities, businesses, individuals and families. Using health “scorecards” available on the RiseVT website, any entity can assess how healthy it is by self-scoring or seek the help of a health advocate to complete a scorecard.
Depending on the results of a scorecard, that entity can then earn “Bronze,” “Silver” or “Gold” certified RiseVT status.
“City School was the first school we certified,” said Demers.
While it was initially a “Silver” status school, under its principal Joan Cavallo, who is also one of the RiseVT collaborators, the school has help facilitate healthier eating, more activity and environmental awareness among its students, since earning it a “Gold” status with RiseVT.
“Joan [Cavallo] and other community partners have been working for years to get the school to the level it’s at,” said Demers.
“Stewardship is kind of what we’re all about,” said Cavallo. In fact, the St. Albans City School Board built stewardship into the school’s official vision statement in 2013.
Cavallo pointed to a number efforts the school has undertaken since in the past two years: the Safe Routes to School Program in which 100 to 200 students walk or bike to school each Wednesday; snacks and meals made with fruits and vegetables grown in the school’s community garden; purchasing items such as snow tubes to encourage more activity during recess; a new walking track installed last summer; and a stewardship project taken on by each learning group, from kindergarteners growing lettuce to seventh and eighth graders building a rain garden to reduce stormwater runoff.
“Every single learning community got involved and did something,” said Cavallo.
Team USA, for instance, earned an energy star rating for the school, and, in the process, won a 2015 Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. This was accomplished through renovations, behavioral changes and updating the school’s water-cooled refrigeration unit with an air-cooled refrigeration unit, saving one million gallons of water per year.
In addition, RiseVT has visited the school and done presentations. This year, Demers said she did a demonstration showing seventh and eighth grade students how much sugar was in products like soda, which was an eye-opening experience.
Through those in-classroom collaborations and events like yesterday’s Stewardship Day, Demers said RiseVT would continue to be a resource for St. Albans City School.
“We’re always a community support,” she said. Demers added that this went for all entities in Franklin County – currently, RiseVT is working with Fletcher Elementary School as well as St. Albans Town Educational Center and hopes to add more schools to that list in the future.
“We want every school in Franklin County to be a “Gold” school,” said Demers.
Looking at the “Gold” status St. Albans City School students yesterday, Demers added, “It’s wonderful to see all the kids invested in this. It just shows their pride for their school, for their health and environment.”
To learn more about RiseVT, visit its website at www.risevt.com.