August 27, 2018-- Toms River Intermediate South has become one of only 21 New Jersey schools across three regional areas to be awarded funding by the New Jersey Department of Health to host a four-year pilot program-- the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Health Project.
Toms River Regional Schools was targeted to apply for the opportunity by EmPoWER Somerset, a NJDOH regional partner and an organization with which the district worked to implement a Mobile Breakfast Academy, a successful program funded by a Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant. EmPoWER Somerset, which encourages the prevention of disease, addiction, and poor physical and emotional health with education and resources, identified Intermediate South as the ideal host location based on its diversity and the receptiveness of its leadership team.
The grant award is worth $15,000 over four years, which will support the efforts of a program leader as well as fund resources to implement related activities.
“If you look at our board-approved district goals for the 2018-2019 school year, you’ll see the phrase ‘whole child,’ because we believe the overall health of our students-- physical, mental, and emotional-- is what leads to sustained success and achievement,” said Superintendent David Healy. “This grant award is not only in perfect alignment with our goals, it arrives at a time when we’ve ramped up our efforts in health and wellness, evidenced by strong partnerships with RWJBarnabas Health and the Toms River Family Health & Support Coalition. We’re thrilled to be among the first to implement this program and to witness firsthand the impact it will have on our students.”
The vision for this pilot is to begin to transform the New Jersey public school landscape by directing resources to build and sustain healthy schools for all students. This pilot was developed in response to the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors’ (NACDD) recently released document: The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model: A Guide to Implementation. The WSCC model is based on the following principles: healthy children learn better; health and academic achievement are inextricably intertwined; schools are an ideal venue for chronic disease prevention; administrative and Board of Education support is critical for creating a culture of health in schools; and a commitment to systems change is required to sustain healthy schools.
At Intermediate South, the WSCC program will be led by Betty Velez-Gimbel, a school counselor who has been with the district for 22 years, with support from Principal Paul Gluck, K-12 Health/PE Supervisor Debbie Schwartz, and a number of other administrators and school staff.
“As the WSCC Team Leader, I am excited to be working with EmPoWER Somerset and NJDOH in the continued endeavor of enriching our whole child approach with programs geared to maintaining the health and wellness of our children,” said Ms. Velez-Gimbel.
After providing baseline data, Intermediate South will work directly with the NJDOH and EmPoWER Somerset to increase the school and district’s capacity to create a holistically healthy school environment. Students will gain knowledge, skills, and experience in assessing state and local health resources; engaging parents as advocates; and developing leadership opportunities.
“Since our inception our staff has always supported the belief that healthy children learn better,” said Principal Gluck. “This program commitment will help us sustain a healthy school environment. We look forward to seeing the connection between health and increased academic achievement for all of our Seminole students.”
The announcement of this grant award comes on the heels of the district’s pilot summer leadership camp, which stressed social-emotional and physical health.
“We’re flattered and tremendously appreciative that organizations like the NJ Department of Health and EmPoWER Somerset have recognized the great work we’re doing and have identified us as an organization they can work alongside to affect a positive change in student health,” said Board President Russell Corby. “That this is a four-year pilot program-- with plans to advance beyond that-- exhibits our long-term commitment to the health of our students.”