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Wellness Innovation Grants Competition Awards Fort Worth Area Students with Most Creative Plans for Improving Campus Well-being

Students from six area elementary, middle and high schools will soon make a lasting impact on the well-being of their schools, as winners of the 2023 Wellness Innovation Grant competition. The fourth annual event awarded a total of $25,000 to student teams that presented the best plans for making healthy choices easier on campus.

The competition is put on by North Texas Healthy Communities - the outreach arm of Texas Health Resources that implements Blue Zones Project in Fort Worth—and underwritten by the Fort Worth-based R4 Foundation. Schools that are selected as finalists must present their proposals before a panel of judges comprised of community leaders. Students are responsible for both selecting their projects and then making their pitch.

The competition is open to area Blue Zones Project Approved or participating schools. This year’s winning ideas ranged fromwellness and meditation rooms to a greenhouse space as well as a renovated area for students to play gaga ball. Winners must purchase project supplies by June and implement their ideas by fall.

“We are always impressed with the creative and fun ideas students come up with to make healthy choices easier at their schools,” said Matt Dufrene, North Texas Healthy Communities vice president. “These young people are passionate about improving well-being, and that shows us we have the foundation for lasting change.”

This year’s contest offered four awards of $5,000 and two awards of $2,500, bestowed on student groups representing various grade levels and areas of the city. The winners are:

$5,000 awards:

  • Applied Learning Academy: The sixth-grade class will use its Wellness Innovation Grant grant to renovate the school’s Blue Zones Project room. Plans call for everything from fresh blue walls to yoga mats, hand weights, an indoor basketball hoop, smoothie bike, flexible seating, plants, and foam floors. The space will promote healthy choices and physical activity, especially when inclement weather prevents students from going outdoors.
  • Benbrook Middle-High School: The student-led Building B Green Team plans to transform an outdoor recreation space to encourage physical activity and social connections. With the grant funding, the area will become an inviting spot that offers games such as four square and pickleball; new seating areas will createopportunities for fellowship.
  • M.H. Moore Elementary: The school’s student council will use its grant to create the Wellness Ambassador Program — aimed at promoting healthy habits, student-to-student and school-to-community connections, and real-life learning opportunities. The students’ ideas include yoga classes and a running club for peers, staff, and parents; happiness walks; well-being field trips; a letter-writing campaign to connect with neighbors; and recycling and community cleanup events. The student council will use the grant funds to equip these programs and raise awareness.
  • Waverly Park Elementary: Fifth graders who belong to the safety organization Tiger Patrol and the student council will use their award to revitalize the school’s gaga ball pit. Gaga ball is a fast-paced game considered to be a gentler version of dodgeball. The school’s gaga ball pit was constructed a decade ago and is now cracked and deteriorating; the space is also full of weeds and mud. A new gaga ball pit will feature a remade structure raised off the ground, with a sturdy surface. When students can play again, they’ll have renewed opportunities for physical activity and social interaction.

$2,500 awards:

  • C.C. Moss Elementary: The LIT (Ladies in Training) student group is leading the creation of a mindful mediation room. The area will be designed to help students relax and regulate their emotions, with features including mindfulness stations, books, fidget toys and other manipulatives, spots for breathing exercises, and yoga mats. The space can be used by individual students, small groups, and entire classes.
  • Polytechnic High School: The Key Club, a student service organization, plans to create a space called Poly Grove. With the Fort Worth Botanic Garden as inspiration, Poly Grove will consist of a greenhouse space where flowers, plants, trees, and produce can be grown. Students envision comfortable seating areas, tables, and a fountain feature. They say the spot will give the student body a place to clear their minds, study, connect with friends, and relax. Poly Grove could also be used for meetings and community events.

“Area students continue to astound us with their passion, creativity, and commitment to improving the well-being of their schools” said Bret Helmer, R4 Foundation president. “We are proud to support their innovative efforts and look forward to watching their ideas come to life.”

The NTHC program aligns with Blue Zones Project’s ongoing work with area schools. Other efforts include walking school bus programs, support for campus wellness committees, and healthy campus celebrations.

About North Texas Healthy Communities

North Texas Healthy Communities (NTHC) is the outreach arm of Texas Health Resources and invested in supporting community health improvement in North Texas through the delivery of innovative health initiatives focused on overall well-being. A signature program of NTHC is the implementation of Blue Zones Project in Fort Worth, a community-led well-being improvement initiative that was brought to the city by Texas Health Resources and other partners to support its mission “to improve the health of the people in the communities we serve.” Blue Zones Project works with businesses, schools, community leaders, and residents to support longer, better lives. Since 2015, more than 95,000 people and 367 groups and organizations have worked together to improve well-being. Fort Worth is the nation’s largest certified Blue Zones Community. The American Hospital Association and its partners highlighted Blue Zones Project in presenting Texas Health Resources the 2022 Foster G. McGaw Prize, which recognizes U.S. health care organizations committed to community health and well-being. Texas Health Resources was also honored with the Texas Hospital Association’s 2022 Excellence in Community Service Award for the accomplishments of Blue Zones Project® Fort Worth. The award recognizes hospitals and health care systems that distinguished themselves through contributions to their communities.