Feature Initiative: Coordinated Youth Initiative

Coordinated Youth Initiative Programs Support Student Health and Academic Success

From its earliest days, the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) has been focused on the health of children and youth through its Coordinated Youth Initiative (CYI). CYI—the Foundation’s longest-supported initiative–is based on the belief that “Healthy Kids Make Better Students and Better Students Make Healthy Communities.”

WPHF began building the initiative in 1998, and has invested more than $12 million in the free, comprehensive student health and wellness services provided through the program–all in an effort to help students be the healthiest and most academically productive possible.

The program, made possible through a unique partnership with Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) and its schools located in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville, includes the CHILL (Community Help & Intervention in Life’s Lessons) counseling program, the School Nursing Initiative (SNI), Student Health Centers and Healthy School Teams (HST).

Annual evaluations continually demonstrate that when students have access to counseling professionals, nurses and nurse practitioners at school who are readily available to address student health needs they miss less class time and are more productive. This in turn contributes to better academic success.

In addition, there is a new emphasis on healthy foods and activities in schools as a result of the work of the HSTs. And because of their success, the HSTs now serve as a model for all of the other public schools in Orange County. The OCPS School Wellness Policy requires each of its 180 plus schools to develop a Healthy School Team.

The HSTs are modeled after the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) Coordinated School Health model. Made up of school staff, administrators, parents and sometimes students, the HSTs plan programs that promote healthy lifestyles and behaviors at their schools.

The success of the programs has brought local, state and national attention. This year, the Foundation received a Florida Education Commissioner’s Business Recognition Award for the CYI programs. OCPS filmed Student Health Center staff and CHILL counselors at work, and interviewed Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President and Bill Gordon, Winter Park High School principal, for a video that was played at the recognition event. Click here to view the video.

During the 2008-2009 school year, WPHF received the Sunshine State School Public Relations Association (SUNSPRA) Leading Light Award and the Dr. P. Phillips Champion of Youth Award presented by the Central Florida YMCA. In addition, WPHF in May 2009 received the Special Judges Award at the annual Orange County Public Schools ADDitions School Volunteers and Partners in Education Recognition Event.

Read more about the programs by going to www.healthykidstoday.org, a website created and maintained by WPHF. The website, updated weekly, also features health news and tips for families as well as healthy recipes and useful resources.