New Year, Same Optimism

By Nancy Easton, Executive Director

Staring me in the face. Wow. Forgive me, but I have just returned from a 10-day vacation with my daughter (#motherdaughtertime) and am slightly more reflective about the passage of time. Just yesterday, Sadie was entering kindergarten. Now she can beat me in gin rummy and race me to the top of any mountain.

With an incredible year behind us and another one staring us in the face, what have I to highlight? Growth and flexibility. The 2017 school year ended with great success and visions for new growth in the fall. And, the fall began in four states, with new models of implementation and management. Most notable for me this past year was how we grew, not simply the growth itself.  It is both liberating and challenging. Liberating because we took all that we have learned from our typical method of implementation (now called the Flagship Model) and flexed ourselves with new methodologies, with new managers/directors in each new region.  Wellness comes in many variations and in order to meet the needs of a particular school, district or community, we need to be nimble. Hence the BootCamps and Workshops . . . to add to the Flagship Model. With growth and new models, came new school relationships and new levels of management. I observed with pride as members of our team stepped into leadership roles and began to build their own communities of wellness.

With anything new, there are stumbling blocks and learning curves. As I discussed with Sadie on one of our hikes, it is in challenge where we grow most and where we learn most and . . . I love a challenge! It was difficult at times for me to let go and become an observer of our great work this year, yet I welcomed the disequilibrium that comes with this new (at first awkward) stage of our growth. I watched as other leaders dove in, took risks, often stumbled, but learned in the process and had support along the way.

I enter into 2018 with renewed optimism. Most of you know that this is my nature, but this is real. I am looking at a year of evolving the BootCamp model, of growing into new cities and certainly of continuing to grow in our current locations. I am looking forward to entering into new partnerships with our coach program. I am excited to soon share the results of our 2-year evaluation with the team at Columbia University that I know will continue to help drive our work. Spoiler alert: WITS kids are eating more fresh fruits and veggies and less processed food; WITS kids are playing more during recess! I am hopeful to soon be sharing the news of other big projects in the pipeline.  Most importantly, 2018 looks like much of the same as we head into the second half of the school year – new experiences and opportunities that propel us to build a rock solid organization. The work becomes deeper and more meaningful with each day, each year.

I am incredibly optimistic about the more global fight against childhood obesity and all that is happening in our space. The NYC school year began with Free Lunch for All!  What a great way to start the school year.  We ended the calendar year with the announcement of a Meatless Monday pilot in 15 schools in Brooklyn. And, 2018 began with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to offer incentives to help New York schools purchase healthy food grown on local farms. A great start to 2018.  We also continue to see less consumption of sugary drinks and less spending at fast food restaurants, both pointing towards a win in this fight. Finally, in the fitness space, 2017 brought a big victory to NYC with millions of dollars allocated to ensuring that every elementary school has staff, training and resources to support strong physical education programs.

Wow. That was a good deal of information! As I reflect on one year and look ahead to another, I am reminded of all that is happening in our space, both the victories and the challenges. And, this is all happening at twice the speed as when we started on this journey to end childhood obesity.  My word count even a few years ago was half the amount as today! It is an exciting time, and a time of much possibility. Wellness in the Schools remains poised to lead with our deliberate and thoughtful approach.

Amen, Amen. Bring it on, 2018!