Manitowoc (Wis.) educators got an opportunity to explore closing the  achievement gap through a wellness project, “Healthy Living Soul Sisters” at McKinley Academy in Manitowoc. The Institute funded the grant.

The program supports 28 at-risk teen girls, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and benefits of healthy lifestyles and relationships.

Gina Wagner, project director, received nearly $7,000 from the Institute to implement the program that is building trust and improving self-esteem among teen girls, important factors that impact student learning and achievement.

Team-building activity.

The grant provides funds for field trips and team-building activities. Other activities include picking vegetables to support healthy eating habits at home and also exploring healthy food alternatives.

The students created a Facebook page for the Healthy Living class. It provides a safe place to discuss issues students are dealing with, get advice and support, read inspiring quotes, view positive pictures and share memories.

According to Wagner, the program’s positive impact is noticeable in the students’ personal lives and the school climate.

“There has been a noticeable change in the school climate,” she said. “There is virtually no drama among our girls. In addition, the students are often observed mingling with others outside of their usual social circles,” she said. “We have been able to foster a safe atmosphere for students to discuss and ask questions in regards to healthy relationships, the care of their bodies, and many other intimate topics.”

Here are a few comments from the students about how the ILP grant is helping their school.

  • “The grant helped our school by bringing all the girls together, encouraging us to be drama free and taking us on trips to make us come together.”
  • “The changes are huge, more laughter and opportunities to work together as a team. It is bringing us closer together.”