First Person

This week's healthy schools highlights

Denver Green School grabs onto gardening

Lafayette Elementary students Lining up to plant school garden.Learn about a 1-acre organic vegetable farm growing at the Denver Green School in this You Tube video. The students and staff are cultivating 70 kinds of veggies and herbs. Produce is used in the school cafeteria and shared with the neighborhood.

“Eat Your Radio” show focuses on healthy schools

Check out this neat student-produced series on efforts to create healthier schools in Boulder, Denver and beyond on Boulder-based KGNU radio.

USDA honors Boulder Valley schools healthy foods

Top Brass from the U.S. Department of Agriculture flew into Colorado this week to honor all the fruits and vegetables and the increase in foods made from scratch in Boulder Valley Schools  breakfast and lunch programs.

Local group wins Food Friends grant

Community Partnership for Child Development announced today that it has received a $42,500 grant from Colorado State University to implement The Food Friends nutrition and physical activity program in its Head Start and Colorado Preschool Program classrooms through the end of the 2011-12 program year.

CPCD is a nonprofit organization that provides free comprehensive early childhood development and family programs for families with children, birth to age 5, who are living in limited income homes, have special needs or experience other adverse circumstances that could challenge their readiness for kindergarten. CPCD currently serves more than 1,900 children each year in El Paso County through Early Head Start, Head Start and the Colorado Preschool Program. For more information, please visit

The Food Friends is a research-based nutrition and physical activity program for preschoolers, which has two main curriculums: Fun With New Foods and Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves. The CSU-run program is funded through The Colorado Health Foundation and functions to change two behaviors in children: their willingness to try new foods and enhance gross motor skill development. Fun With New Foods is a 12-week program that includes food tastings and nutrition activities twice a week. The 18-week Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves program incorporates movement and physical activities during the movement portion of the day with a focus on locomotor, stability or object manipulation skills. 

CDC: Kids consume too much sugar, mostly from processed foods

 Kids are getting way too much added sugar in their diets, according to a new report from the CDC, and that could raise their risk for obesity and chronic diseases. Check out this CBS News report. 

Yoga improves mental, social, physical health for Boulder teens

Before a test, Rachel Klein doesn’t cram or stress out.

She bends at the waist, lets her head drop toward the ground and feels the blood flow to her brain. She breathes.

“It gives you a different perspective, and it helps lessen the hyperventilating, which will actually make you more stressed,” says the 16-year-old Boulder High School student.

Rachel loves “inversions” like this — and headstands, which she mastered after 10 weeks of practice in one of the Yoga Pod’s special teen workshops. Read more in the Daily Camera. 

Preschools launch program to fight obesity

Two preschools in the South Bay have launched a nutrition program aimed at improving children’s eating habits and reducing childhood obesity.

More than 200 children ages 3 to 5 will participate in the classes, which use music, stories and crafts to teach about healthy eating. Parents will also receive monthly newsletters with recipes and tips. Read more in the Los Angeles Times. 

Increase of childhood obesity slowing in Calif., study suggests

Between 2003 and 2008, California students were still gradually growing more obese, but the rate of increase had slowed from years prior, according to a new study based out of the University of California, Davis.

The study, published in the February issue of the American Heart Journal, examines state fitness-test results of 6.3 million students in 5th, 7th, and 9th grades. Read more in EdWeek. 

Poudre schools consider student health, wellness policy

The Poudre School District Board of Education will consider a key policy that would direct the school district to “support the integration of comprehensive health and wellness in student learning.”

The purpose of this fifth pillar of the District Ends policy, from my perspective as an individual board member, is to support a positive learning environment for academic growth, reduce behavioral interventions and promote lifelong healthful habits. Read more in the Coloradoan. 


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.