This story originally appeared in the Clinton Foundation’s 2015 Annual Report.
At the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s 2015 Leaders Summit, Principal Jean McTavish beamed as she took the stage to accept the National Healthy Schools Gold Award – the highest level awarded by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (the Alliance) – for Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School in New York City for the second year in a row.
The school’s accomplishment is especially remarkable given its underserved student population. Many of its students have overcome serious obstacles including being incarcerated, becoming teen parents, battling life-threatening diseases, or losing a family member to disease, crime, or violence. Jean believes that the students’ circumstances make it all the more important that their school makes health a top priority.
“Kids come to school more when they're healthy. Staff comes to school more when they're healthy,” says Jean. “When we feel better not only do we complete school work better but also we treat each other better.”
Since working with the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, Jean has transformed her school’s culture by successfully implementing healthier meals and snacks, starting a school garden, and increasing time for physical activity throughout the day. To truly walk the talk, she leads spin classes before school, encouraging her students and staff to start each morning with a healthy outlook.
~Jean McTavish, Principal, Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School
For Jean, her students, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, there are many reasons to be proud of the healthier school communities they’re creating. In addition to becoming a healthier school, West Side High School’s graduation rate has improved by 10 percentage points and its dropout rate has declined by 5 – providing more students with the chance for a brighter future.