First Person

This week's healthy schools highlights

Udall tries to block starch limits in school lunches

WASHINGTON — New proposed school lunch standards have some members of the Colorado congressional delegation wrangling. Over potatoes. Both small and large, purple and brown and gray — but not sweet ones, it turns out. Read more in the Denver Post.

Healthy food is good for grades

At Alsup Elementary in Commerce City, the school day begins with feeding the stomach before the mind.

“A lot of our students were coming to school hungry,” Cindy Venney, the manager of nutrition services for Adams 14 School District, told 7News. “They couldn’t sit still and were going to the nurse’s office with stomach aches and headaches.” Check out the 7NEWS report.

Exercise spurs teenage boys to stop smoking

Fitness routines may keep teenagers away from smoking. For teenagers struggling to quit smoking, a new study has some advice. To break the habit, try breaking a sweat. Read more on this New York Times blog.

Recess is making a comeback in schools

As more Chicago public schools cash in on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s longer-day financial incentives by adding 90 minutes to their school day, the previous votes by a dozen schools  to add about a half hour to the day by bringing back recess are going unnoticed. Read more in the New York Times.

Fight for healthier kids with Fuel Up to Play 60

About 12.5 million. That’s the number of American children and adolescents who are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and there is no better time to join the movement to end childhood obesity by getting involved with Fuel Up to Play 60, which encourages youth to consume nutrient-rich foods and to achieve at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Parents, community leaders, health professionals and businesses can learn more about what they can do to help conquer childhood obesity at Registered dietitians can also join the ADA Foundation Kids Eat Right Initiative and sign up to take action with Fuel Up to Play 60 in schools across the country.

Hispanic Health Education Kit now available

The Hispanic population is the largest ethnic/racial minority group in the United States, and is impacted by obesity and some health conditions more than non-Hispanic whites. On average, U.S.-born Hispanics consume only 1.5 to 1.6 servings of dairy a day, potentially missing the important nutrients that dairy foods provide. That’s why the National Dairy Council has developed a Hispanic Health Education Kit, which offers research, handouts and education resources on health considerations important for Hispanics and the role of dairy foods in a healthful diet. Find it at at

10 ways to pick, pack healthy school lunches

The federally regulated National School Lunch Program requires school lunch to provide the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Read more.

Jamie Oliver lectures the UN on obesity crisis

Jamie OliverMoving beyond dressing up as a giant tomato and filling school buses with sand, Jamie Oliver has kicked his campaign to save the world up a notch with a letter asking United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to take up the topic of childhood obesity with the global body at a high-level meeting this week. And, as any good celebrity advocacy letter to an international organization would, Oliver’s is filled with statistical citations, emotional appeal and self-referentiality. Read more at

Colorado Action for Healthy Kids needs parent advocates

Colorado Action for Healthy Kids is looking for parents who want to make a difference in their schools by making them healthier places for kids and staff.

Learn more about becoming a parent wellness advocate in a 30-minute webinar to be held at 2 p.m.  Monday, Oct. 3, to share information about this project and answer questions about the opportunity. The deadline for Parent Advocate applications is now Oct. 15. To register for the webinar go to:

Colorado Action for Healthy Kids is looking for 20 parents/caregivers in 20 diverse elementary schools across the state to promote healthy eating and physical activity in their school community.  Selected advocates must come from school buildings with at least 40 percent free/reduced meal participation.  Advocates will receive leadership training, coaching, stipends and funding to implement school wellness projects.

Students compete in healthy back-to-football challenge

With the 2011-2012 school year in full swing, Fuel Up to Play 60 students have been hard at work creating submissions for the Back-to-School, Back-to-Football Challenge. Students were asked to create a commercial illustrating how they are kicking off the year with Fuel Up to Play 60 and generating Fuel Up to Play 60 spirit among their peers. The winner, set to be announced in October, will receive tickets to Super Bowl XLV.

Head over to Fuel Up to Play 60’s SchoolTube page to check out submissions for the Challenge, which wraps up Oct. 10.

Are you a Fuel Up to Play 60 program advisor? If so, check out the Healthy Tailgate Party Play in your Playbook on You’ll find great ideas for hosting Tailgate Parties to showcase how fun and easy healthy eating and physical activity can be.


First Person

‘I didn’t feel like I had anyone to ask for support’: Why it matters to have teachers who look like me

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

For 10 years — the first decade I was in school — all my teachers were white women.

As a Mexican-American kid, I didn’t get the chance to have a man of color as a teacher until high school. Going into my senior year, I like how diverse my teachers are now, but I wish I’d had the same experience when I was younger.

When I think about why it matters to have a teacher I can relate to, I think back to fifth grade. A classmate said to me, “Mexicans are illegal—they cross the border every day! How about you, did you cross the border?” This bothered me. So, after class, I asked the teacher for help. But all she said was, “That’s OK, he was just playing.” From there, I had nowhere to go. She was at the top of the food chain.

In 1990, before they met, my mother and father came over the border from Mexico. My mom’s parents weren’t making enough profit from their cattle ranch, so they had little choice but to immigrate. My mom came with them to the United States and worked at a restaurant so she could send money back home. My father followed his older brother here because he wanted to start a new life. Little did he know he would one day cross paths with my mother and eventually start a family.

But my classmate was “just playing” when he insulted all of this. I wish my teacher had done something else.

If I’d been the teacher, I would’ve taken a different approach and worked to understand why we were acting and responding the way we were. Maybe the other student and I could’ve found common ground. But, unfortunately, we never had a chance to try.

Up until ninth grade, I had zero male teachers of color. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to ask for support when things like the fifth-grade incident happened. Many of us students felt that way — and that’s why I want to be a teacher, a fifth-grade teacher in particular. I want to make my culture an asset in the classroom and be a teacher students feel comfortable confiding in, no matter their background.

A teacher’s perspective: Cut from the same cloth: Why it matters that black male teachers like me aren’t alone in our schools

In middle school, I started seeing more male educators, but they were all white. Then, when it came time for me to start high school, I ended up going to school in a different neighborhood — an hour commute away—and things finally changed for me. Since starting high school, I’ve had six male teachers of color, and it’s made a huge difference.

My high school makes a big deal out of the whole “building relationships” thing. To my teachers and everyone else at the school, relationships are just as important as academics. At first, it was hard to get used to, but eventually it started making sense to me. I’m in an all-male mentorship group led by two African-American men who openly share about their struggles growing up in New York, and give us advice in any area of life — including what it means to appreciate our cultures. This is one of the things I like most about my school.

It’s hard to explain the way it feels to have a teacher who looks like you; they’re like older brothers who become a huge part of our lives, even if it’s just for four years. They make it easier to connect and socialize and help me feel more like I belong. To me, learning from someone who reflects who you are is one of the best things a student can experience.

Near the end of the school year, my mentorship group did an activity where we took turns getting asked questions by other students and staff. One of the mentors asked me, “What’s it like being Mexican American and how has your background influenced your goals?” No one had ever asked me that before, and it took a long time for me to process the question.

After a few moments, I spoke a bit about my family’s story and shared some of the stereotypes I had encountered and how they affect me today. Everyone was so supportive, and the mentors encouraged me to continue breaking stereotypes and defining myself rather than letting others define me.

It was nerve-wracking at first, telling my story in that group, but after three years of high school, we’d developed that level of trust. It was the first time I’d shared my story with that many people at once, but it felt intimate and very different from the time in fifth grade when that kid tried to tell my story for me.

Finally having teachers that look like me has made a huge difference. They don’t just mentor me and help me with my academics, they also make my goal of becoming a teacher seem more realistic.

Having men of color I can look up to and model myself after is a big part of why I have no doubt I’ll make it to college — and eventually be able to give other kids the type of help my mentors have given me. I know where I’m needed, and that’s where I’m headed.

Jose Romero is a senior at EPIC High School North in Queens, New York. This piece originally appeared on the blog of TNTP, a national nonprofit and advocacy group that trains new teachers.

First Person

A Queens teacher on Charlottesville: ‘It can’t just be teachers of color’ offering lessons on race

PHOTO: Bob Mical/Creative Commons

In a few short weeks, school will resume in New York and I’m already thinking about how we are going to address racism within the four walls of my classroom. I’m thinking about what texts, historical and current, we can read and films and documentaries we can watch to support dialogue, questioning, and solutions for combatting that ugly, pervasive thread in the fabric of our country’s patchwork quilt called racism.

Last year we read “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” a former slave turned abolitionist, and juxtaposed its reading with a viewing of Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” which discusses modern-day slavery in the guise of mass incarceration. Students asked questions of the documentary as they watched it and discussed those queries within their groups and with the class at large afterwards.

We do our children and ourselves a disservice when we don’t have these difficult conversations as a part of our collective curriculums. However, many teachers from various walks of life are neither well-versed nor fully comfortable discussing race on any level with their students. Not talking about racism won’t make it go away. If anything, not talking about racism in the classroom further perpetuates racist ideologies that are, at their root, born out of ignorance. Education’s goal is to dispel ignorance and replace it with truth.

With that being said, just how many teachers feel equipped to facilitate lessons that touch heavily upon race in the classroom? Not nearly enough.

According to Teaching Tolerance, “The dialogue about race should start in the classroom — the teacher-prep classroom, that is. Preservice teachers should be exploring multiculturalism and discussing ways to honor diversity in their future classrooms.”

But often, Hilton Kelly, a professor of education at Davidson College in North Carolina told the site, the coursework isn’t giving future teachers the training they need to talk about race. “Even when future teachers take courses on diversity and multiculturalism,” Kelly said, “those courses don’t take the critical approach to race that future teachers truly need.”

“Food, folklore and festivals are not the same as an analysis of race in America,” Kelly argued.

But an analysis of race in America is exactly what needs to happen. Furthermore, it can’t just be teachers of color solely facilitating such lessons in their classrooms.

I don’t want to write about the events going on in Virginia. I don’t want to think about it. I’m so tired of the hatred and I long for peace, but I can’t very well in good conscience remain silent. That would be akin to protesting with those hate-mongers in Virginia last weekend. I can’t just write about back-to-school shopping, lesson planning, and business-as-usual while my brothers and sisters in Virginia are being murdered in cold blood by white supremacist American Nazis.

Are the children of Virginia safe? Are our children anywhere safe? What can I do to make a difference within the hearts and minds of the children whom I teach? If education is our best vehicle for bringing about change — which it is— how am I going to infuse the lessons I teach with critical thinking and analysis about racism in the United States for the seventh-graders entrusted in my care? How are other educators planning to address these events with their students at every grade-level?

I pose these questions to all who are reading. Whether you are a teacher, a student, a parent, an administrator, or a community member, I plead with you to work together to create answers that work toward healthy conversations and hands-on action in the fight against racism.

Vivett Dukes is a teacher at Queens Collegiate: A College Board School. A version of this post first appeared on New York School Talk