Building a Healthy Mississippi

Bell Academy and Northeast Elementary are Healthy Schools

2021 Healthy School - Bell Academy

Grant Awarded: $50,000


Bell Academy, a school with grades K-6 in the Cleveland School District, effectively promotes health and well-being in collaboration with the school health council and community stakeholders. As a result of this collaboration, Bell Academy has a written action plan with clear goals, objectives, recognition and rewards to encourage healthy behaviors among faculty, staff, students and parents.

Funded by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, Bell Academy’s school garden program is the central hub of campus and community health and wellness. The garden serves as an outdoor classroom and is an integral part of every subject area, including science, math, reading, social studies and language arts. The garden also fosters life-long social skills by teaching responsibility, communication and teamwork. Fresh produce from the school garden is used for taste tests in the school cafeteria to encourage students and school personnel to try nutritious foods such as summer squash, pickled cucumbers, fresh salsa and garlic Swiss chard. The Booster Club regularly harvests produce from the garden to host healthy cooking classes for school parents and others in the community. To financially sustain the garden, fruits and vegetables are sold to local farmers’ markets and restaurants. The school garden also plays a central role in increasing daily school attendance and decreasing student disciplinary actions.

From yoga to golf, the physical education program at Bell Academy provides many opportunities for students to adopt lifelong fitness habits. The cycling program at Bell Academy helps students improve motor skills, while providing physical activity and building self-confidence. Before the cycling program was implemented, many students did not know how to ride a bike, had never ridden a bike without training wheels or had not been introduced to a bike. With the assistance of student volunteers from Delta State University, 68 percent of Bell Academy students learned how to ride a bicycle.

At Bell Academy, emphasis is placed on Social Emotional Learning using the Botvin LifeSkills Training curriculum that focuses on the emotional and social health of students. Students are learning personal self-management skills, social skills and drug resistance skills.

Bell Academy has taken many steps to improve the health of the school community, including strengthening the nicotine-free policy to prohibit vaping, adding nicotine-free signage throughout campus and enforcing the nicotine-free policy at all school-related events. Bell Academy also offers free education programs to faculty, staff, students and parents to prevent nicotine use.

With the $50,000 grant award, Bell Academy plans to purchase additional physical education equipment, bicycles, bicycle helmets and expand the school garden program.

2021 Healthy School - Northeast Lauderdale Elementary School

Grant Awarded: $50,000

Northeast Lauderdale

Committed to using a coordinated school health approach, Northeast Lauderdale Elementary School (“Northeast”) school personal and families are working together to improve students’ health and their capacity to learn. A school with grades K-4 in the Lauderdale County Public School District, Northeast promotes health education, physical education and healthy nutrition for faculty, staff and students.

Northeast utilizes the Mississippi Department of Education’s Resource Guide to Social Emotional Learning Standards sequencing self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship skills and decision making skills tailored to students’ cognitive abilities. During times of distance learning, school social workers engage with students and provide assistance with reducing stress and anxiety while promoting healthy behaviors such as adequate sleep, healthy nutrition and physical activity.

As a result of a strengthened school tobacco-free policy to prohibit vaping, Northeast school leaders and parents collaborated and developed “Project NEAT” (Northeast Elementary Against Tobacco). The program incorporates nicotine education with student research and art projects. Students work in teams to research the benefits of living nicotine-free lifestyles and present their findings through creating different types of art which are then displayed around campus.

Classroom teachers at Northeast take opportunities to help students establish proper personal hygiene habits, including cough and sneeze etiquette and proper handwashing. Hand sanitizing stations are located in strategic areas around campus, and school nurses have presented programs to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses to faculty, staff, students and parents.

At Northeast, the Project Fit America program, funded by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, provides students with opportunities to increase strength, flexibility and endurance. The Project Fit America program is fully integrated into the school’s physical education program and collected fitness data consistently shows improved fitness levels among students.

Activities are plentiful on the school’s outdoor walking trail. Faculty and staff wellness challenges, walking clubs, fun-run events and other activities keep school and community members engaged. Physical education teachers create lesson plans incorporating the walking trail to keep students socially distanced and safe while playing fun games and calculating the number of miles walked in a day, week and month. The reading garden has added a special place for students to learn and grow.

Northeast plans to use the $50,000 grant award to implement a staff wellness program and create a school garden.