First Person

This week's healthy schools highlights

School lunches get first overhaul in 15 years

Kids can expect more fruits and vegetables, less fat and salt, and more whole grains than in the past.

The new school-meal standards announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wednesday are the first changes to the standards in more than 15 years, and are a major component of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act passed last year. Read more in the Christian Science Monitor. 

Obama pushes salad in schools at $3 billion cost to states

teen girl at salad barAn overhaul of U.S. school meal standards that replaces breaded patties and canned fruit with fresh tomatoes and chef salad will cost $3.2 billion over five years, less than half of what was initially proposed by the Obama administration. Read more in Bloomberg. 

Cook for America swaps mystery meat for homemade meat sauce

In an era when many school cafeterias have long ago traded in fresh baked goods for re-heated, pre-packaged meals, two lady chefs travel across the country on a mission to revolutionize the dreaded school lunch one school district at a time. Check out this ABC News report.

Getting the family involved may help obese kids lose weight

Childhood obesity is a complex issue with no simple solutions, but involving the entire family in weight loss and health may help kids achieve their goals, a report finds.

A scientific statement released Monday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Assn. reviews strategies shown to be successful in helping kids slim down. Some studies find that obese children can have symptoms normally associated with adult obesity, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Others suggest that overweight kids often turn into overweight adults. Read more in the Los Angeles Times. 

Got salad? Students at Windsor High do, thanks to one student’s initiative

Long after Amanda Ricketson graduates from Windsor High School, she’ll have left a healthy legacy in the lunch room.

Amanda, a 16-year-old Windsor sophomore with a 4.0 grade-point average, was instrumental in getting a salad bar in the high school cafeteria.

As a freshman last year, Amanda did a PowerPoint presentation about the importance of having a salad bar in the school lunch room. She also put together a video where she interviewed several students about their thoughts regarding salad bars. Read more in My Windsor Now.

School lunches from around the world

Jazz up your child’s lunch by thinking outside lunch box staples and choosing foods from different parts of the world instead. The essential building blocks of these dishes — rice, beans, noodles, and chicken — can be prepared ahead (and served for dinner the night before) then transformed into wraps, rolls, flatbreads, soups, or salads for lunch. Get some ideas from Great Schools. 

Food TED talks: The 8 best lectures on eating and food policy

On Saturday, TEDx Manhattan, an unofficial offshoot of the non-profit TED, will be hosting a series of lectures on the theme “Changing The Way We Eat.” Boulder’s own “renegade lunch lady” and EdNews Parent expert Ann Cooper is among them. The talks are going to be live-streamed at viewing parties across the country. But if you’re busy Saturday – or just want to get a sense of the types of issues that might be discussed – there’s no need to despair. There have been dozens of official TED Talks about food in past years. Read more in the Huffington Post. 

School obesity programs may promote worrisome eating behaviors 

In a new poll, 30 percent of parents report at least one worrisome behavior in their children that could be associated with the development of eating disorders

A new report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health examines the possible association between school-based childhood obesity prevention programs and an increase in eating disorders among young children and adolescents. Learn more from the University of Michigan. 

Fort Collins school’s climbing wall gives students confidence and exercise

Johnson Elementary third-grader Lilli Blakeslee was all smiles as she grabbed her last hand hold, reached the top of her route on the climbing wall and rang the bell of success.

“I can’t believe I got to the very top!” said an excited Lilli. “That’s my first time all year!”

Every Tuesday morning as many as 30 Johnson Elementary students meet before school to participate in the Climbing Club, an extra-curricular enrichment opportunity for third- through fifth-graders. Students equip themselves with harnesses and choose one of the Rock Climbing Wall routes, which range in difficulty and are all manned by adult volunteer belayers. Fun hand and foot holds like ice-cream cones and letters that spell the name of the school help the climbers as they maneuver themselves to the top. Learn more through the Poudre School District. 

First Person

With roots in Cuba and Spain, Newark student came to America to ‘shine bright’

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Layla Gonzalez

This is my story of how we came to America and why.

I am from Mallorca, Spain. I am also from Cuba, because of my dad. My dad is from Cuba and my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, and so on. That is what makes our family special — we are different.

We came to America when my sister and I were little girls. My sister was three and I was one.

The first reason why we came here to America was for a better life. My parents wanted to raise us in a better place. We also came for better jobs and better pay so we can keep this family together.

We also came here to have more opportunities — they do call this country the “Land Of Opportunities.” We came to make our dreams come true.

In addition, my family and I came to America for adventure. We came to discover new things, to be ourselves, and to be free.

Moreover, we also came here to learn new things like English. When we came here we didn’t know any English at all. It was really hard to learn a language that we didn’t know, but we learned.

Thank God that my sister and I learned quickly so we can go to school. I had a lot of fun learning and throughout the years we do learn something new each day. My sister and I got smarter and smarter and we made our family proud.

When my sister Amira and I first walked into Hawkins Street School I had the feeling that we were going to be well taught.

We have always been taught by the best even when we don’t realize. Like in the times when we think we are in trouble because our parents are mad. Well we are not in trouble, they are just trying to teach us something so that we don’t make the same mistake.

And that is why we are here to learn something new each day.

Sometimes I feel like I belong here and that I will be alright. Because this is the land where you can feel free to trust your first instinct and to be who you want to be and smile bright and look up and say, “Thank you.”

As you can see, this is why we came to America and why we can shine bright.

Layla Gonzalez is a fourth-grader at Hawkins Street School. This essay is adapted from “The Hispanic American Dreams of Hawkins Street School,” a self-published book by the school’s students and staff that was compiled by teacher Ana Couto.

First Person

From ‘abandoned’ to ‘blessed,’ Newark teacher sees herself in her students

PHOTO: Patrick Wall
Jennifer Palumbo

As I sit down to write about my journey to the USA, all I can think of is the word “blessed.”

You see my story to become Ms. Palumbo started as a whole other person with a different name in a different country. I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but my parents either could not keep me or did not want me. I was, according to my adoption papers, “abandoned.” Abandoned is defined as “having been deserted or cast off.” Not a great start to my story, I know.

Well I was then put in an orphanage for children who had no family. Yes at this point I had no family, no home, not even a name.
I spent the first 10 months of my life in this orphanage. Most children at 10 months are crawling, trying to talk, holding their bottles, and some are even walking. Since I spent 10 months laying in a crib, I did none of those things.

Despite that my day to be chosen arrived. I was adopted by an Italian American couple who, after walking up and down rows of babies and children, chose to adopt me. My title just changed from abandoned to chosen.

But that wasn’t the only thing about to change. My first baby passport to leave Colombia is with the name given by the orphanage to an abandoned baby girl with no one. When I arrived in America my parents changed that name to Jennifer Marie Palumbo and began my citizenship and naturalization paperwork so I could become an U.S. citizen.

They tried to make a little Colombian girl an Italian American, so I was raised speaking only English. Eating lots of pasta and living a typical American lifestyle. But as I grew up I knew there was something more — I was something more.

By fourth grade, I gravitated to the Spanish girls that moved into town and spent many after-schools and sleepovers looking to understand who I was. I began to learn how to dance to Spanish music and eat Spanish foods.

I would try to speak and understand the language the best I could even though I could not use it at home. In middle school, high school, and three semesters at Kean University, I studied Spanish. I traveled to Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Honduras to explore Spanish culture and language. I finally felt like the missing piece of my puzzle was filled.

And then the opportunity to come to Hawkins Street School came and as what — a bilingual second-grade teacher. I understood these students in a way that is hard to explain.

They are like me but in a way backwards.

They are fluent in Spanish and hungry to obtain fluency in English to succeed in the world. I was fluent in English with a hunger to obtain it in Spanish to succeed in the world. I feel as a child I lost out.

My road until now has by far not been an easy one, but I am a blessed educated Hispanic American. I know that my road is not over. There are so many places to see, so many food to taste, and so many songs to dance too.

I thank my students over the past four years for being such a big part of this little “abandoned” baby who became a “chosen” child grown into a “blessed teacher.” They fill my heart and I will always be here to help them have a blessed story because the stars are in their reach no matter what language barrier is there.

We can break through!

Palumbo is a second-grade bilingual teacher Hawkins Street School. This essay is from “The Hispanic American Dreams of Hawkins Street School,” a self-published book by the school’s students and staff that was compiled by teacher Ana Couto.