By Tara Cavanaugh
Ann Arbor Public Schools’ Community Education and Recreation Department is the grateful recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The grant is awarded as part of MCDH’s Physical Activity and Healthy Eating Before and After School and Summer Pilot Program.
Rec&Ed will use the grant to provide after-school sports programs, to create scholarships and programming for a summer school camp, and much more.
Overall, more than 600 at-risk AAPS students in grades K-5 will benefit from the multi-week programs, said Rec&Ed Director Jenna Bacolor.
“These are pilot funds to try new programs and offer programming to kids who don’t normally get it,” Bacolor said. “We’ll see what works and we hope that it will lead to best practices that we can use in other areas of the district as well.”
Rec&Ed identified four schools that could most benefit from the pilot funds: Bryant, Pattengill, Mitchell and Pittsfield elementary, which are Title I schools.
Rec&Ed will offer a mixture of after-school offerings at the schools, including basketball program in the winter, soccer in the spring, and a new spring program that Bacolor said was somewhat similar to the Warrior Dash event for adults. Children will work together to get through an obstacle course, learning teamwork and leadership in the process.
“This program is more of a cooperative program, not a competitive program,” Bacolor said. “We’re doing that deliberately.”
Rec&Ed will utilize partnerships to help implement the grant. One-on-One sports will help supply the basketball, soccer and the new obstacle course program. Chartwells will supply the healthy snacks for the sports activities. The University of Michigan School of Social Work will supply consultation and training for the new program.
“They offer a really positive approach to youth sports that includes addressing child development, team-building, conflict resolution and diversity training,” Bacolor said. “We think that will be wonderful to include.”
The MCDH grant will also be used to transform the after-school camp for the Summer Learning Institute.
The Summer Learning Institute is offered at Ann Arbor Open every summer. The four-week program provides elementary students a half-day of summer school. Rec&Ed has long offered an afternoon camp for the SLI students.
With the grant, the camp will be transformed into a CATCH program, Bacolor said. CATCH stands for Coordinated Action Toward Child Health, and it offers physically active games and healthy eating instruction. The CATCH After School program is a nationally recognized best practice program.
“We think it’s going to be a great offering,” Bacolor said. “Since these are pilot funds, we’re going to see what parts of this are really successful and perhaps incorporate them into future summer camps.”
The MCDH grant will allow Rec&Ed to provide full scholarships for 35 children, Bacolor added.
In addition to the SLI camp and the after-school sports, the grant will supply Mitchell Elementary with a new bike rack, nutrition and health training for staff who work with students, and gift certificates to SLI students with perfect attendance.
The grant also requires the AAPS Wellness Committee to review and strengthen the language of its existing wellness policy and physical education policy, and to submit an application for HealthierUS schools, a voluntary certification of the US Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service.
Although Rec&Ed requested $96,000 from MCDH for the grant, it was awarded a full $100,000. “That was a complete shock,” Bacolor said. Rec &Ed was one of 67 applications for the grant, and MDCH only awarded 10.
Completing the grant was a “great team effort,” she added. She worked with Donna Dishman, Sheri Judkins and Vickie Malcom at Rec&Ed. “They took a leap of faith with me, that putting in the hours would lead to something good, and it really paid off!”