The Wellbeing Partners Youth Wellness Coordinator, Claire Brown, spoke with Cecelia Jenkins of local news station WOWT about work surrounding Youth Wellness as schools prepare to welcome students back in the fall. Here is the full interview – learn about the many projects The Wellbeing Partners has coming up to support teachers and others who serve youth in our community as we “Return to Learn” this fall.

You can watch the highlights from their conversation.

Cecelia:  So, who are The Wellbeing Partners?  

Claire:  We are a nonprofit organization—our mission is to build wellbeing into the way communities grow and do business.  Our Youth Wellness work is a part of our larger body of work that connects worksite wellness and community health. In short, we are working towards our vision of “all people and places thrive”—children, employees, our community as a whole.  We serve Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, and Pottawattamie counties, as well as the Des Moines metro area 

Cecelia:  How long have you been around? 

Claire:  We’re a merged organization as of January of 2020.  We’re formerly Live Well Omaha, and WELLCOM, or The Wellness Council of the Midlands.  Together, we have over 60 years of experience in the world of public health.   

Cecelia:  We learned that you recently conducted of teachers as they prepare for next year. What was the goal of that survey?  

Claire:  We are using the survey to plan our support for teachers as they head back in the fall.  Our youth wellness work centers around helping schools and other youth-serving organizations create healthy environments for their students.  We do this by helping to evaluate current wellness practices—like whether or not students have enough time for physical activity during their day, whether or not they get enough drinking water, using our Safe Routes to School program to create safer options for active transportation to and from school—and then making goals where there are areas for improvement.  We provide technical support and often materials to meet those goals and make those changes happen.  So, as we head into the 2020/2021 school year, we know that there are going to be new challenges, and we want to support teachers through those challenges. The survey was a way to us to gauge which challenges teachers are prepared to face and which challenges they’re looking for support on.     

Cecelia:  What did you learn?  

Claire:  The survey confirmed that teachers need support.  Teachers face impossible challenges every year, and every year they work miracles with their students.  This school year, we’re looking at a new level of impossible, and so, as a community, it’s up to us to provide a new level of support.  Through the survey, teachers told us that wondering how they’ll support their students’ mental wellbeing as they come back from 5 months of uncertainty, and for many students, 5 months of very stressful times–how will teachers support their physical wellness with possible restrictions to playground usage and PE class?; how will it look to have meals in the classroom rather than the cafeteria?—there will be many new challenges.   

Cecelia:  How many people responded to the survey?  

Claire:  We had about 50 responses, and we’ve taken that information and begun planning already, but we are reopening the survey and if there are other teachers who would like to share their thoughts, the survey can be found pinned at the top of our Facebook Page, The Wellbeing Partners Youth.  We will also be updating on the progress of our projects and how teachers can access the supports that we are creating via that Facebook page or our website,    

Cecelia:  How will the results help teachers moving forward?  

Claire:  We’re working on a few projects now to help teachers for this upcoming year.  We partner directly with a few schools across the area, through grants with CHI Health and Maternal Child Health, but we’re also adding some digital supports that will be available to any school, any youth serving organization, anybody working with youth in the community.   Currently, we are working with Dr. Dinkel from the school of Health and Kinesiology at UNO to create a video resource for teachers to help increase physical activity opportunities in their classroom—how can we allow for safe physical play in the classroom if we can’t use the playground; how can we build physical activity into the learning day; etc.  We’re also gathering supports for student mental health needs.  We recognize that we cannot separate mental health from physical health, and many students will be facing challenges to their mental health as they head back to school.  We want to equip teachers, and the community as a whole, with resources to support youth mental health.  We are also working with the Nebraska department of Education as they create their recommendations for school in the fall, and we are a part of a national Safe Routes to School Planning group that is creating recommendations for the Safe Routes program.