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Ava Elementary Named to 2019 List of America’s Healthiest Schools

Photos submitted

Ava Elementary students are shown above enjoying a slice of watermelon –– a special treat.

Ava Elementary to be honored with national award for promoting healthy eating and physical activity.

AVA, Mo. Sept. 16 –– Ava Elementary has been named to the 2019 list of America’s Healthiest Schools by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a national recognition for their commitment to students’ health and well-being. As a part of the Healthy Schools Healthy Communities (HSHC) initiative, the Ava R-I has worked to create a healthier future for Ava children. These changes were made possible by funding from Missouri Foundation for Health and the hard work of school leadership, staff, and students.

A total of 355 schools nationwide were selected based on a rigorous set of criteria—from availability of nutritious foods, to access to quality physical education opportunities—as part of Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program.   The Alliance for a Healthier Generation offers awards at the bronze, silver and gold level, based on the number of best practices schools have implemented relating to children’s health.  

In 2019, Ava Elementary is one of only 49 schools in the entire country to receive silver recognition this year.  In addition, in Missouri, Ava was one of only five schools that received the Silver level.

To attain this honor, the school has taken the following steps toward creating a healthier environment for both students and staff:

• Ava is host to the Morning Walking Program, which has now been in place for seven years.  This program has 100-plus students that walk before school starts each morning.  The school also sponsors a Walk to School Event in the fall and spring.

• Birthdays are recognized monthly with an open gym celebration.  This encourages students to participate in activity events instead of food celebrations.

• Celebrations for academics and good behavior are also recognized with dance parties, gym jams, kickball games, limbo, baseball, etc.

• New equipment purchased  for the PE department increases movement to 50% moderate to vigorous activity time. 

• Classroom movement is encouraged through Go Noodle, healthy laps, and other activities.

• The school continues to offer the Universal Breakfast program which is free breakfast for all students, PreK – 12th grade.  The Breakfast in the Classroom program is available for K – 8 grades. 

• Ava R-I also has established an on-going partnership with the Missouri Community Health Wellness Center (MOCH). 

• Summer school activities include student triathlon classes. 

• Partnership with Bears Den offers active family exercises and events. 

“A mindset change has happened over the past few years that is very exciting and a great way to sustain our programs.   Our entire community — parents, teachers, students, and staff — are committed to creating a healthy space for our children to learn and grow,” said Ann Leonard, Ava R-I School Wellness Coordinator. “We have worked hard and are thrilled to receive this recognition from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. We know it’s important to stay committed and we want to continue to improve even more over the years to come.”

“The list of Missouri schools named America’s Healthiest Schools is inspiring. This school used the Healthy Schools Healthy Communities initiative as a springboard and took their dedication to the next level, engaging school district and community leaders to achieve this accomplishment. Building a healthier future takes all of us working together,” said Paula Ballew, program officer, Missouri Foundation for Health. 

America’s Healthiest Schools, 77 percent of which are Title I schools that support underserved student populations, receive Healthier Generation’s National Healthy Schools Award at the Bronze, Silver or Gold level, based on the number of best-practices they have implemented relating to children’s health.  Healthier Generation’s team of school health experts evaluate schools based on their ability to serve healthier meals and snacks, get students moving, offer high-quality health and physical education, and support staff wellness. 

“We are thrilled to see another strong showing of dedicated schools that are taking steps to create healthier school environments that support children’s physical, social, and emotional health,” said Kathy Higgins, chief executive officer at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. “More than a decade ago, we sought to help schools create a culture of health that puts the well-being of youth and educators front and center. We are blown away by the number of schools, especially those serving youth from underserved communities, that doubled down on their commitment to health and academic success. This year’s list is a continued testament to the nationwide movement for improving the social, emotional and physical health of current and future generations.” 

To view the complete list of America’s Healthiest Schools, visit