Freedom Middle School Receives Gold Award of Distinction
Over the course of the last few years, Freedom Middle School, along with the seven other schools in South Berwyn School District #100, has made a commitment to help not only our students become healthier, but improve the health of our surrounding community as well.
Our approach began simply by working with Aramark, our food service provider, to serve only the healthiest meals to our students. It continued to grow by eliminating all nonessential food in and out of the classroom, including candy rewards in classes and celebrations where food was incorporated. It may not seem like a big deal, but we truly felt that we were teaching our students unhealthy habits by celebrating in unhealthy ways. Now, instead of celebrating with pizza and pop, we celebrate with healthy fruit or other low fat, low sugar snacks.
At the same time, our physical education teachers began to transition our physical education program from a game-based to a fitness-based program. For us, this meant students taking part in more fitness-related activities like running up and down the staircases in our building or simply running more than ever. Instead of playing a traditional game of basketball, our students played modified basketball games designed for full participation while challenging them to improve their overall cardiovascular endurance.
The breadth of our approach all changed with the help of United Way and OfficeMax and we could not be more grateful. During the summer of 2011, Freedom Middle School partnered with Youth Crossroads (a local non-profit organization dedicated to providing counseling services to the Berwyn Community) and submitted a grant application to create a Community Schools Initiative as part of United Way’s LIVE UNITED 2020 vision to help increase the number of middle school students prepared for high school. During that time, OfficeMax was also working with United Way to adopt a local school and after reviewing our grant application and visiting our school, decided to adopt Freedom Middle School and pledged $1,000,000 in funding over a three-year period.
Because of United Way and Office Max’s commitment, our students now have access to a state-of-the-art fitness center filled with cardio equipment designed to help improve their overall fitness. While in physical education class, students will have regular opportunities to workout using the various elliptical machines, treadmills, spin bikes, and step mills. During these workouts, the students also have the opportunity to watch educational content on TV monitors or listen to music to further enhance their learning. We also instituted morning fitness clubs where as many as 35 students have been seen at school at 6:30 am in order to get their workouts in before class starts. We are most excited about the possibility of opening up our fitness center to our community after school hours where we hope to provide quality opportunities for families to come in and use the equipment, free of charge.
In March, Freedom Middle School hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony for this new fitness center and filled the school with local organizations that provide health-related services to our community. Again, through our partnership with Youth Crossroads and with the help of United Way and Office Max, we were able to connect more than 350 families with services that they may not have known existed to help our community live healthier lives.
We recently completed an application to the HealthierUS School Challenge as part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative and I am very pleased to announce that Freedom Middle School, along with five other schools in District #100, have received the Gold Award of Distinction. The additional two schools in our district won Silver Awards, which is the highest award they qualified for based on the various requirements set forth in the challenge.
None of this would have been possible with out the fantastic leadership in District #100, the dedicated staff members of Freedom Middle School, or the substantial commitment to our programs provided by United Way and Office Max. While we have so much to be proud of, we know that our work is not close to being done and we plan to continue working with all of our great partners to ensure that our students and our community continues to have access to programs that will help them lead longer, healthier lives.
Blog post submitted on behalf of Jim Calabrese, Principal at Freedom Middle School.