Schools use grant to ‘Upgrade’ health

Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Anna Muller, left, Logan Fischer, Collin Lorey, all 11 and of Ferdinand, and Grace Mix of Dale, 10, play with an inflatable bubble ball during the healthy tailgate on Friday evening in Huntingburg before the start of the Southridge and Heritage Hills football game. “We’re giving kids and families the knowledge of how to live a healthy lifestyle,” Huntingburg Elementary Upgrade Coordinator Brett Schuler said. 


HUNTINGBURG — The North Spencer and Southwest Dubois school districts teamed up for health before Friday’s high school football game between the Patriots and Raiders.

Schools in both districts receive the Upgrade grant from the Welborn Baptist Foundation. The grants award elementary and middle schools $15,000 a year for three years for health initiatives in the schools and the communities they serve. Friday night’s tailgate featured free, healthy food samples, such as pumpkin chex mix and grilled fruits and vegetables, as well as booths from local businesses and organizations focused on health. It was the second year for the tailgate.

“We thought it would be a cool tradition to keep going,” said Shannon Fuhs, the Upgrade coordinator at Southridge Middle School.

Fuhs previously served as the grant coordinator for Heritage Hills Middle School.

Several local schools either currently receive or have received the Upgrade grant, formerly known as the Heroes grant. At North Spencer and Southwest Dubois, each eligible school in the corporations has received the grant. Since the schools all share the Upgrade mission, Fuhs said it offered a perfect chance to partner on an event to bring the two communities together.

The mission covers things like improvement of the nutritional value of all foods served on school campuses, the utilization of a research-proven education program to increase the number of minutes spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, and increased opportunities for children to receive health education that reinforces healthy lifestyle choices.

“The whole thing with Upgrade is getting you to upgrade your life,” said Brett Schuler, the Upgrade coordinator for Huntingburg Elementary School.

Other area schools that have received the Upgrade grant are Pine Ridge Elementary School and Cedar Crest Intermediate School in the Southeast Dubois corporation, Fifth Street School in the Greater Jasper corporation and Holy Trinity Catholic School in Jasper.

To receive the grant, schools must hold a community event in the fall and spring and plan a capstone project to promote health in the community. Schools are also encouraged to implement initiatives that promote health every day. At Heritage Hills, Fuhs said, the students compete in weekly health competitions such as completing a certain number of pushups a day or meeting the recommended daily water intake. The school also used the grant to add a breakfast nook so students wouldn’t have to walk to the high school building for breakfast.

“What happened is a lot of middle school kids were skipping breakfast,” Fuhs said.

Once the nook was finished, more students were getting breakfast.

Southridge Middle School has tentative plans to connect campus sidewalks with the city’s sidewalk system to make it safer for students to walk and bike to school.

At Huntingburg Elementary, Schuler said, fifth-graders now have a salad bar option at lunch, and the school revamped its birthday treat program to include extra recess time or healthy snack options instead of the traditional sweets students bring in.

The biggest part of the Upgrade grant, though, is the education. Open houses for parents and teaching kids healthy habits are the main goal, Schuler said. That part requires buy-in from the communities. So far, Fuhs and Schuler said, the communities have been on board.

“It’s about everybody working together to upgrade the community,” Schuler said. “We have great support from the community for it.”