In the past five years, Rutherford County Schools' Jenna Stitzel has worked to provide funds for outdoor walking tracks at 19 elementary schools, fitness centers at three middle schools and implemented a stability ball chair program in more than 50 classrooms.
During the past month, she passed the $1 million mark for the amount of grants and in-kind donations she has secured for the school district and the families it serves.
Stitzel accomplished these goals as the school district's Coordinated School Health coordinator. The CSH program, as it is known, seeks to connect health with education because student health directly influences academic achievement.
For her efforts to help students and school employees with wellness, Stitzel has been named the Coordinator of the Year for the Mid Cumberland region by the Tennessee Department of Education's Office of Coordinated School Health.
"I do the walking tracks instead of complicated programs because everybody can walk. You don't need special equipment, skills or training," Stitzel said. "It's something easy that kids can pass on to their families and do it together on nights and weekends. My hope is they can become lifetime walkers and they can be fit for a lifetime."
In addition to the grant projects for wellness equipment and facilities, Stitzel's department completes health screenings of students in various grades each year and then shares that information with parents. Parents are then notified if their children have a suspected health issue and a referral is made for additional medical attention.
"We're trying to eliminate health barriers to learning," Stitzel said. "Through the screenings we have found students who have diabetes or other health issues so they can be addressed and are not missing school.
Community Partners have been a big reason for the success of Rutherford County's program. Stitzel has established relationships with Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, The Richard Siegel Foundation and the Nashville Predators, which have all contributed funds. On the horizon, the hospital has pledged funds over a three-year period to build at least three outdoor walking tracks at three Rutherford County middle schools. In addition, Stitzel is planning to build outdoor fitness stations inside the walking tracks at the elementary schools.
The Rutherford County Schools' Coordinated School Health program focuses on eight areas of health: Student, Family and Community partners; Health Services; Health Education; Nutrition; Physical Education, Activity and Wellness; Healthy School Environments; Mental Health and School Counseling; and School Staff Wellness.
For information about how to get involved with the program or to learn more, contact Stitzel at 615-893-5812 or go towww.rcschools.net/csh.