Blog | October 1, 2019

San Diego Unified School District Investing in Health and Wellness

Specialized programs paying dividends for students and families

On September 25, Rear Admiral (Ret.) Frank Ponds and Mission: Readiness California State Director Jake Ferreira met with Lynn Barnes-Wallace, Physical Education and Health Resource Teacher for San Diego Unified School District (USD). Together, they embarked on visits to three schools to see firsthand the wellness, nutrition, and physical education programming that is positively impacting students in Pre-K through 12th grade across the District.

The team started off the morning at Balboa Elementary School, participating alongside students in “Increasing Movement and Physical Activity in Class Time” (IMPACT), a physical education program designed to keep local students moving throughout the school day.

Rear Admiral Ponds and Balboa elementary students
Rear Admiral Ponds congratulates Balboa elementary students following the completion of their IMPACT activities.

IMPACT represents a unique partnership between UC San Diego Athletics, UC San Diego Pediatrics, and the San Diego USD. The goal of the program is to promote healthy activity and battle the national epidemic of obesity among children.

Rear Admiral Ponds Daughter
Rear Admiral Ponds’ daughter, Sherese, enjoying a memorable moment at Balboa Elementary. (Photo courtesy of Rear Admiral (Ret.) Frank Ponds)

“Returning to Balboa Elementary was special to me in many ways,” said Rear Admiral Ponds. “Our daughter, Sherese, attended Balboa from Pre-Kindergarten (1987) to 4th Grade (1993) and went on to achieve her undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University, before attending medical school and becoming a pediatrician. To me, it is simple…every child deserves the right to grow up in a safe and secure environment that affords them healthy and nutritious meals that they can depend on and positive memorable moments that they can cherish for life. These seemingly ordinary basics are necessary for our children to lead productive and ‘extraordinary’ lives. I am grateful for the opportunity to support programs such as this and the many others that promote the health and wellness of the children and youth within our communities.”

Following the visit to Balboa Elementary, the team traveled to San Diego High School to tour their Wellness Center. The Center is a result of San Diego USD’s Wellness Initiative, which launched in 2016 to promote the health and well-being of students, staff and families across the District. Now in the third year of the Initiative, the District has 170 school site wellness programs, 62 District Wellness Council members, and 5 school-based Wellness Centers.

Rear Admiral Ponds at San Diego HS Wellness Center
From L to R: Rear Admiral Ponds, Jake Ferreira, District Wellness Supervisor Kate McDevitt, San Diego High School Wellness Center Coordinator Shelli Stinson, and District Healthy Start Coordinator, Kat Alexander

These Wellness Centers proactively identify underlying challenges facing students, including Social Determinants of Health and Adverse Childhood Experiences. Students enter a safe environment where they can meet with the Wellness Coordinator and support staff to identify specific issues. Wellness Coordinators can then connect students to resources by decreasing common barriers. In the process, students learn life skills including strategies for stress reduction, healthy eating, time management, and other health and wellness topics. This all drives towards outcomes of better health and well-being, improved academic performance, increased attendance, and greater civic engagement.

Rear Admiral Ponds and Kearny HS students
Rear Admiral Ponds with Kearny High School students who led an innovative Geographic Information System (GIS) project whose aim is to identify solutions to the obesity epidemic impacting youth across San Diego.

The team concluded their day at Kearny High School where they received a briefing from five sophomore students who led an innovative GIS project that leveraged data from FITNESSGRAM, California’s statewide fitness assessment for 5th, 7th, and 9th graders, to identify the areas where obesity was most prevalent across the District. The students proactively identified solutions, including expansion of the IMPACT program, and briefed school and community leaders on their findings.

Together, these visits highlighted the outstanding work students, faculty, and community partners are leading to promote academic achievement, wellness, proper nutrition, and regular physical activities as a part of a total learning experience.


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