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John Monfredo: Awards Rolling in for South High

Saturday, November 10, 2012


South High School, under the direction of Principal Maureen Binienda, has received yet another honor. In the past year, the school has also received attention for its Marching Band and AP program. This award comes from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health for their achievement in wellness. The school was informed just recently in a letter by Commissioner of Education Dr. Mitchell D. Chester and by Commissioner John Auerback of the Department of Public Health about their Bronze-Level Massachusetts Wellness Award.
The letter sent to Principal Binienda  acknowledged that the selection committee was impressed with all aspects of the wellness program at South High, the coordination with school staff and the community, and the way in which the school created an exemplary whole-school approach to fostering wellness. 

“Clearly, South High has gone above and beyond what is required to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment.” The letter also thanked the school for their commitment to improving the lives, health, and achievement of youth in Massachusetts and for setting such a wonderful example for others.

Principal Binienda,  in hearing about the award, confirmed, “We are very happy to have received this award…South High School works to ensure our students live healthy lives and we will continue to collaborate with our community partners to provide a safe and healthy environment.”

In winning the award, South High will receive materials of their choice to support school wellness activities.  Principal Binienda stated that she has ordered additional physical education equipment including heavy weight bean bags and healthy eating kits. At a ceremony honoring the school this week, the school received a Massachusetts School Wellness Award banner of recognition from the Departments of Education and Health at the Superintendents and school committees’ conference in Hyannis.

South High was among two Massachusetts schools having been selected as winners for the Wellness Award. The other winning school was Estabrook Elementary School in Lexington (gold award winner). This award honors public schools that support and promote healthy eating, physical activity, and tobacco-free lifestyles among students and staff. 

Laura York, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Coordinated School Health Program, acknowledged, “These schools understand the importance of a healthy school environment, not only in terms of the childhood obesity epidemic, but for the academic success of their students as well.”  The winning schools were chosen for their effort to develop exceptional policies and programs in the areas of health education, physical activity, nutrition, staff wellness, and tobacco prevention.  

South High has had many outstanding programs throughout the years in an attempt to reach out to their students and has involved students in many service learning activities.  The school’s mission is to teach the students the importance of giving back to their city and in turn make them better citizens.  The school conducts a Hunger Awareness Week every year where students learn about hunger in all classes such as reading hunger literature in English class, using hunger statistics in math class, and learning about the biological effects of hunger from visiting doctors and dieticians in science class.  In addition, the school chorus and band also developed a melody of songs focused on helping each other and present the songs to faculty during a lunch prepared by South High food service students.
The project all started during Hunger Awareness Week in 2010, when students began discussing hunger in their own families and the school staff realized they needed to address this challenge for their students. As a result of those discussions, a South High Food Pantry was started, and to this day it continues to serve 85 students and their families weekly. Food for the pantry is donated by faculty and community agencies. As part of the project all grade 9 students plant and harvest vegetables at a local farm that grows food for local food pantries. 

Principal Binienda vowed that they will continue with their traditional Hunger Awareness Week this year and have scheduled the event to take place next week, November 13 to the 16th. During Hunger Week every curriculum area will dedicate one day of lessons on hunger as part of their subject area.  On Friday, the 16th, there will be luncheon for the staff who will again be serenaded by the school chorus with songs about our responsibility of caring for each other. There will also be several guest speakers.

In addition to Hunger Week the state’s selection committee heard about the school’s all water school environment, and their focus on health involvement with Family Health-(the school’s health center that has assisted in the coordination of all aspects of student health-food pantry). 

Also, throughout the year, the Physical Education and Health teachers focus on exercise and conversations with students on staying health and fit.  The PE teachers have introduced the students to sports that they can do at home and have established a badminton club with 50 students and a bowling club with 50 students.  Furthermore, yoga and the use of wii programs are part of the PE classes. 

In the future, South High will be partnering up with UMASS Medical School on a variety of projects, so stay tuned!

South High has a great deal to be proud of and the Worcester Community is truly grateful for all of the efforts by the principal, staff and students. 

Well done, South High!


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