When a local school reaches out to Sara Pelkey, Coordinator of the Youth Wellness Program at the Center for Population Health at Cheshire Medical Center, they already have their students’ health, well being, and lifelong success in mind. What they might be missing are the resources, connection to community partners, and support to make their school wellness ambitions real. That’s where the Youth Wellness Program comes in.
“When a school connects with us, I first do a “healthy schools assessment” with them, using a tool developed by the Centers for Disease Control,” Pelkey explains. “We figure out what their baseline of school wellness is, where they’re strong, and where they could use some help. Then we develop the supports that are right for their school’s community.”
In the 2018-2019 school year, Youth Wellness worked in about 31 schools, supporting nearly 7,000 students. That support has included providing ongoing support in programs, youth coalition development and overall prevention tools. Some schools have implemented programs to help prevent youth suicide. Others have sought guidance on developing school wellness policies, or help reestablishing dormant Wellness Committees.
Sometimes that support is about making community connections, such as connecting schools with local guest speakers who introduce elementary students to new fruits and vegetables.
Pelkey doesn’t provide direct program services. Rather, she empowers leadership, teachers, and students with tools to build a culture of wellness that will serve their school’s needs.
“The highlight for me is seeing the schools using these tools to do the work to make their community better,” says Pelkey. “They are really the champions.”
Would you like to learn more about how Youth Wellness supports schools? Contact Sara Pelkey at (603) 354-5454 x2321 or spelkey@Cheshire-Med.com.