Tucked away on the southern edge of Hall County, Friendship Elementary is quietly gaining national attention for its commitment to health and wellness.
The school has been named among five 2013 Partner Up for Public Health Heroes. The recognition is a joint endeavor of the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Partner Up! for Public Health Campaign and recognizes Georgia organizations and individuals who make important contributions to the health of their communities.
Friendship Elementary is a Hall County Wellness School of Choice, and was selected for addressing public health challenges, including seeking to make a local impact on childhood obesity. In addition to its focus on academics, the school seeks to educate students on the importance of good health, and its correlation to improved academic performance.
In addition, the school has been recognized by the Alliance of a Healthier Generation’s Healthy School Program and has received the American Heart Association’s Fit Friendly School Gold Achievement.
“We take a common sense approach,” said Principal Berry Walton. “We believe in moderation, and taking baby steps every day towards positive, healthy change. Our efforts are geared to fight childhood obesity and our teachers and staff aim to build strong academic minds and able bodies. We hope to teach eating and wellness habits to our students today that will prove to be positive skills later in life.”
Friendship Elementary wellness strategies are researched-based and are considered best practices in the areas of health and wellness, said Walton, whose own studies focused both on health and education.
The school’s mission statement includes “the exploration of activities that improve the overall health of the community.”
Walton explained that all activities and efforts at the school incorporate a health conscious component. The school hosts fun runs, family fitness nights and includes health-related items in family newsletters. Its parent-teacher organization events also offer health and wellness tips.
Out of a relationship with Hall County Master Gardeners, the school has also grown from cultivating flowers to establishing a vegetable garden as part of its junior master gardener program. Produce is made available for use by the cafeteria.
According to Walton, this latest recognition was unsolicited. “They called us and told us that we won the award.”