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Vista Charter Academy Receives State Wellness Award

Congratulations to Stefanie Gillett, Vista Charter Academy physical education teacher, the health team, and staff. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) recognized 28 Michigan schools for fostering healthy eating, physical activity habits, and tobacco-free lifestyles, and impacting more than 14,000 students during the 2020-2021 school year.
Vista was the only charter school to receive the award. Throughout the year, the Vista Health team focused on physical activity and education, healthy school environment, staff wellness, and family engagement.

“I am honored to be recognized by the MDHHS for our school wellness program,” said Gillett. “I am so fortunate to have a school administration and staff that also believe in our goals of developing healthy students and families. Vista is truly a school that believes in empowering our school community to make healthy choices that help build lifelong healthy habits.”

To apply for the award program, schools provided information about nutrition, physical education/activity, tobacco-free practices, and submitted at least one success story. Her Wellness team has created a lot of fun challenges over the years such as No Soda November, Healthy Snack Day, and Wellness Wednesday. The 25 Days of Fitmas Challenge is the success story Gillett submitted with her application this year.
“In order to encourage small movement breaks every day during virtual learning, the Wellness Team created the 25 Days of Fitmas Challenge in December,” said Gillett. “It was wonderful to hear from families that they were completing these movement breaks together through their day of learning and working.”

Each day from December 1 through December 25, there was a different exercise for students to complete. Many of the elementary teachers used the 25 Days of Fitmas calendar as a fun way to get their students moving during their morning meetings. Teachers and students would perform the exercise together then the teacher would encourage students to complete the exercise on their own two more times during the day. The calendar was shared via Google Classrooms and was interactive for students to click on exercises to see an example of the correct exercise form.

“Stefanie does a fantastic job of focusing on fitness for our students. One of her units this spring was cardio drumming. The students stood while utilizing drumsticks to hit a yoga ball, while completing different arm, leg and core exercises to different songs,” said Kristen Hekkema, Vista Charter Academy principal. “Stefanie also planned and executed the Vista Ninja Warrior Challenge in place of field day this year. Students were challenged to complete a fitness obstacle course individually, while earning speed points for their teams. The focus on fitness at Vista has increased due to the pandemic and students becoming more sedentary. These activities that Stefanie has taught our students are easy to do at home and are a part of keeping our families healthy and active.”

The Michigan School Wellness Award program aims to engage schools statewide in creating healthy environments by establishing school wellness teams, completing the Healthy School Action Tools, and implementing sustainable policy and environmental changes. Schools that achieved all these elements are recognized with the top-level gold award. Schools were awarded at the silver and bronze level as well. Vista Academy’s award was at the silver level.

“Recognizing these schools is more important than ever this year given the challenges we faced together,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “The schools being recognized navigated challenges to go above and beyond to meet the critical health needs of growing children and youth through opportunities to participate in physical activity, nutritious school meals and snacks, and nutrition and health education in-person and remotely.”
To see the Vista Charter Academy staff and kids focusing on fitness and having fun, check out the Vista Ninja Warrior Challenge on YouTube, and this WWMT News Story.