The District Lifestyle Team is kicking off the beginning of the 21-22 school year by celebrating 20 years of wellness! While the Lifestyles team itself is a good bit younger than that, its foundation was laid in 2001 when the Healthy Maine Partnership was formed using tobacco settlement dollars. This was back before the formation of RSU 18, but two key players in our district’s wellness development were named as health coordinators: Claire Heffernan for China and Beth Prelgovisk for MSAD 47.
“The Lifestyles program ultimately evolved from this initial start (in 2016-17), but has gone through many phases with lots of changes and tweaks along the way,” said Lifestyles team member Gary Smith. “A key aspect to the current wellness efforts is that we continue to grow/evolve/recreate ourselves to keep things fresh and current… And who knows what the next 20 will be like/look like?”
The Lifestyles Team has played a huge role in the opening day for faculty and staff for the last several years and this year they truly outdid themselves. Staff members arrived at MHS through a welcome back pavilion featuring a tent, banners, tables, balloons, and music. Staff also got to enjoy a photo booth station, a raffle for special prizes, an array of breakfast treats courtesy of Barbara Bonnell and the Nutrition Staff, and Aroma Joe’s coffee service.
Staff members then got to make a true red carpet entrance into the opening workshop. A rope line of cheering students and community members were there to welcome back returning staff members. Their entrance was live-streamed onto the PAC big screen alongside the Summer Staff Wellness video.
In addition to their usual Summer Staff Wellness video, the Lifestyles team also developed a 20 Years of Wellness Video which they shared with the whole district for staff to enjoy during their opening workshops. As with all that the Lifestyle Team does, the video encourages people to do simple things to prioritize their health and wellness, but it also tells the tale of the group’s evolution.
In the early 2000s the local wellness programs focused their efforts on creating a Tobacco Free School Policy, developing district Wellness Policies, developing a comprehensive health curriculum for kindergarten through grade 12, implementing school walking trails, and offering wellness activities benefiting staff, students and the communities where we live.
When RSU 18 was formed in 2009, work began to bring the two wellness programs together. The new group expanded their focus to include many more programs, such as a parent and staff newsletter, wellness incentive programs, teacher appreciation activities, community wellness and safety events, working with towns on Maine Safe Routes to School programs, developing our school trails and forest system, and applying for and receiving wellness focused grants. These grants in turn led to further growth through additional trail systems, outdoor learning spaces, student nutrition classes, school gardens, and healthier fruit and vegetable snacks in our schools!
In 2016, the wellness program went through another major evolution and was renamed the Lifestyles Program. Through increased support from the superintendent, school board, and school administrators, improved communication about program offerings, and a more effective group structure, the team was able to offer many new, exciting programs that brought staff members together in fun and inspiring ways. The group now offers comprehensive wellness activities that extend beyond the walls of our schools.
“We strongly believe that offering a quality wellness program brings many benefits to our students, staff and communities,” the Lifestyles Team stated in their video. “A strong focus on wellness has allowed RSU 18 to become a beacon of wellness and an example of how to do wellness right! We plan to keep raising this bar and being ambassadors of wellness to others by sharing our skills and knowledge in order to help others along on their own wellness journeys.”
We want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped this group develop and grow along the way.Your focus and dedication to our district’s wellness is greatly appreciated! What you all have accomplished in the last 20 years is truly remarkable. Here’s to 20 more years!