By Wendy Siskin, Senior Program Director
It does not feel that long ago when I joined Wellness in the Schools in 2011 as a coach on the PS 87 recess yard. When I moved into a leadership role, I was charged with building the Coach for Kids program to match the impact of the Cook for Kids program – fighting childhood obesity using two sides of the same coin. I always viewed our Coach for Kids program to be more than a recess program, just like our Cook for Kids program is more than a cafeteria program. The impact we set out to make is a big one. Our vision/end goal stands at the very top of a steep mountain that not only takes tireless miles of steps, but people helping people, holding hands, inspiring one another to keep fighting, and joining forces to become even more resilient. Wellness in the Schools meets communities where they are and shifts their entire school culture, diving deeper than the recess yard and the cafeteria. That is the heart of our program. To support that fully, we have created systems for schools to build a comprehensive wellness model, reaching the mindsets and habits of the administrators, teachers, parents, and the students.
My first step in building a strong Coach for Kids program was to build an even stronger team. We are now heading into our 5th year of our Fellowship program with Adelphi University. Almost 100% of our WITS Coaches are graduate students, earning their Master’s Degree in Sports Based Youth Development Physical Education. This highly competitive fellowship has raised the bar and the expectations of our coach program. And its success has garnered the attention of many other universities interested in similar fellowships. The impact of our work has also positioned us as an expert in this academic space, and we were invited to present at SHAPE America in March, one of the leading conferences on fitness education in this country.
We just launched our first Annual Move for Kids campaign, through which several fitness studios and influencers in NYC and Miami raised money for WITS. I received the opportunity to introduce WITS to the international audience of Daily Burn, an online streaming fitness platform with a membership of approximately 2.5 million. Even though the thought of working out on live video was somewhat frightening, I took on the challenge. After the invigorating workout, I was able to share our work in a 10-minute interview. While I was a little sweaty throughout the entire interview, it certainly helped to build our Coach for Kids network. This campaign highlighted so many passionate groups of people that heard of WITS for the first time, who all genuinely want to join our mission in some way.
Does your kiddo love working out with you? Here’s an exercise routine led by Wendy Siskin, Senior Director of Wellness in the Schools, that will get both you and your little one moving.
Posted by Daily Burn on Wednesday, February 28, 2018
It is an exciting time for Wellness in the Schools. I continue to follow the inspiration from our fearless leader and founder, Nancy Easton. I am honored and inspired daily by the leadership role I have been given. My role this year as Senior Program Director has allowed me to view our work with an even broader lens, and as a thought leader. Our work in NYC, the largest school district in the country, remains an incredibly valuable testing market as we develop more programs across the country.
Our WITS culture lives by the Phil Jackson quote, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” In order for our programs to be successful, we must empower our teams to give our schools the tools, the knowledge, and the confidence to be able to sustain them. We are now at a place where our Chefs and Coaches work together as equals, both sides of the coin, teaching as a team to show the power of good food and fitness to end childhood obesity.
I’m consistently challenged and inspired by the work we do and everyone who holds hands with us to empower our younger generations. This is just the beginning.